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Plans to add calories to on-trade alcohol ‘absurd’

Trade groups have hit out at a reported proposal to display calories on alcohol sold by large bar and pub operators, with UK Hospitality calling the move “absurd”.

The hospitality sector has been hugely impacted by the pandemic

In July 2020, the UK government revealed plans to launch a consultation into whether alcoholic beverages should provide calorie information to tackle obesity.

The government is considering whether venues with 250 or more employees should display calories on the beer, wine and spirits they serve.

A government spokesperson said: “As outlined in our obesity strategy, we’ll be launching a consultation soon on mandatory calorie labelling on alcohol – no decisions have yet been taken.”

This week, England’s pubs and bars were allowed to reopen for outdoor service after months of closure due to Covid-19. Indoor trading is due to resume next month.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade group, UK Hospitality, said the proposed move comes at an ‘absurd’ time for the sector.

“If true, these proposals are absurd at a time when pubs and other hospitality businesses are struggling to survive,” she said.

“The last thing the sector needs after prolonged periods of forced closure is unnecessary red tape that creates yet more burdens for operators, who are simply desperate to get back to running their businesses.

“The labelling of food and drink is a complex area and we’d urge the government to work closely with the industry on workable solutions that strike a balance between meeting public health objectives and not creating additional business burdens.”

‘Already struggling’ sector

The UK’s alcohol watchdog the Portman Group also voiced its concern over the proposed consultation.

The group’s CEO Matt Lambert said: “The alcohol industry is committed to giving consumers detailed information to help them make well-informed decisions about drinking. We welcome this consultation and its aims.

“However, we are very concerned about plans for a new set of mandatory regulations. The industry, particularly small businesses, has been hit very hard by Covid-19. It can ill afford the further financial burden of costly mandatory labelling changes.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the government. Over the past two decades there has been a significant decline in binge-drinking, alcohol-related violence, drink-driving and underage drinking.

“We have shown time and time again that the voluntary approach works. It will deliver the result we all want to see, faster, more effectively and without extra costs to a sector is already struggling due to the necessary closure of hospitality.”

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