Beer duty hike abolition

Nine out of 10 consumers did not know calorie content of a pint of beer

Two thirds of British adults want calorie labelling on alcoholic drink packaging, according to a survey from the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH).

The poll of more than 2,000 consumers found widespread lack of knowledge of the calorie content of alcoholic drinks. More than 80% either did not know or incorrectly estimated the calories in a large glass of wine, while almost 90% struggled to guess the content of a pint of lager. A 175ml glass of 13% ABV wine contains around 160 calories, and a pint of 4% lager around 180.

The RSPH will use the research - which found 67% supported labelling and that just 3% were opposed - to push the drinks industry and new EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to introduce calorie labelling. The European Commission has said it will make a decision by the end of 2014 on whether to extend nutritional labelling to alcoholic drinks, which are currently exempt as they are not recognised as food.

“Calorie labelling has been successfully introduced for a wide range of food products and there is now a clear public appetite for this information to be extended to alcohol to help individuals make informed choices,” said RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer.

“With two in three adults overweight or obese and given that adults who drink get approximately 10%t of their calories from alcohol, this move could make a major difference to waistlines of the nation. While we continue to back unit labelling for alcoholic drinks, we believe many people find calorie labelling easier to translate into their everyday lives.

The RSPH’s recommendations have received criticism in some quarters.

“The trouble with the claims by the medical campaigners and the pressure group activists is that they fail to see the whole picture,” said Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at advertisers’ industry body ISBA. “Today’s PR campaign confuses the binge drinking and obesity messages. Surely doctors and public health officials need to wonder why people do not understand the blindingly obvious that most food and drink will make us fat if we have too much and do not follow a balanced diet. Campaigns to make us aware of this simple fact would be a lot more effective than hectoring campaigns against consumers and businesses.”

The study involved 2117 adults surveyed online between 10 and 12 October, with the results weighted to reflect the profile of British adults.