Alcohol calorie labelling aims to tackle obesity

27th July, 2020 by Melita Kiely

The UK government will launch a consultation regarding plans to provide calorie labelling on alcoholic beverages to tackle obesity.

Summer-Cocktails

The UK government will hold a consultation regarding labelling calories on alcoholic beverages to tackle obesity

Data supplied by the UK government suggests alcohol consumption accounts for approximately 10% of the calorie intake of those who drink, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an extra day’s worth of calories weekly. This equates to an additional two months of food each year.

According to the UK government, research shows 80% of people are unaware of how many calories are in common drinks and tend to underestimate the calorie content.

It is hoped by labelling the calorie content in alcoholic beverages, consumers will reduce their consumption and obesity levels nationwide will improve.

If plans are approved, on-trade venues could be made to list ‘hidden liquid calories’ on menus in a bid to encourage consumers to make healthier ordering choices.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, said: “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier.

“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”

The consultation has been welcomed by the Alcohol Health Alliance.

Professor sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “The government’s plans to consult on ending the current exemption for alcohol products from calorie labelling requirements are very welcome.

“When the calorie equivalent of a large glass of wine is the same as a slice of pizza or a cocktail is the equivalent of a cheeseburger, it is clear why alcohol products should be included in the government’s plans to tackle the obesity crisis.

“Alcohol is a factor in more than 200 health conditions and is the leading risk factor of death among 15-49-year-olds in England. Labelling on all alcohol products with prominent health warnings, low risk drinking guidelines, information on ingredients, nutrition and calories would help equip the public with the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions about what and how much they drink.

“If we want to build a healthier, more resilient society we need to wake up to the harm alcohol does to people’s health.”

Concerns labelling could harm businesses

Trade body UK Hospitality has raised concerns that forcing venues to include calorie labelling on their menus could cost as much as £40,000 (US$51,400) per menu run.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “At-risk sections of society need specific targeting but the most constructive approach with most of society is to provide effective and credible tools to allow people to make informed decisions about their lifestyles, nutrition and exercise, from as early an age as possible.

“The sector is keen to play an active and positive role in helping to deliver and support initiatives in schools, to better communicate the benefits of healthy cooking and eating – there is simply no question that education has an enormous role to play in reducing obesity in the long term.

“We are genuinely keen to work with Government to address obesity but the extra regulatory and cost burdens of measures like menu labelling could not come at a worse time. Hospitality has played its part in lockdown, feeding and accommodating vulnerable people and key workers. Now, as we focus on securing jobs and helping the economy and communities to recover, a raft of costs and regulatory burdens would be a slap in the face.”

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