New research released today suggests that the North East public would back Government plans to include health and nutritional information on alcohol products.
If you didn’t know a glass of wine can contain similar calories as a slice of pizza, or a pint of lager similar to a Mars Bar then you’re not alone – it’s not on the label. But there is strong support for having this information.
A new poll from YouGov asked the public what legal requirements they would like to see for alcohol labelling. The majority of those asked supported more information being included on labels including:
- 75% of people want the number of units in a product on alcohol labels
- 65% of people want calorie information on alcohol labels
- 53% of people want the amount of sugar on alcohol labels
In addition, 74% of people in the North East support including the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk weekly guidelines of up to 14 units on alcohol labels (separate survey of 911 people in the North East by Balance).
The findings come on the same day that a group of 94 leading health experts, including charities, medical royal colleges and academics, as well as MPs, have written to the Health Secretary calling for better alcohol labelling.
Sue Taylor, Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Fresh and Balance, said: “Alcohol is linked to over 60 medical conditions including cancer, and 2020 was the worst year for alcohol deaths for two decades.
“There is strong support for more information – people have a right to know what is in their drink so they can try to keep their risks low and make more informed decisions about their consumption.”
“Alcohol provides us with very little in the way of nutrition and may actually impair the way we absorb nutrients but as it stands, the law requires more information to be displayed on a pint of milk than on a bottle of beer or wine.”
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and Alcohol Policy Lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “Alcohol causes immense harm in terms of deaths, disease and addiction, but 2020 has been something of a tipping point and it is the most disadvantaged communities which suffer the most.
“We know many people are drinking more since the pandemic, and while cheap alcohol is driving this harm, it is appalling that alcohol companies have been able to provide so little information on their products that could enable people to make healthier decisions.
“We need to see action to give the public clear information, as well as tackling the burden of cheap alcohol which drives addiction, deaths and hospital admissions.”
The letter was sent ahead of a Government consultation on calorie labelling for alcohol products; a move which is welcomed by the signatories. In addition to calorie labelling, Balance with the signatories supports providing further health information on alcohol labels, including the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines.
Alcohol is currently exempt from the labelling requirements for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks are only required to display the volume and strength (in ABV) and common allergens. Information on nutritional values (including calories), ingredients, health warnings or the number of units of alcohol the product contains is not required and is therefore largely absent from labels.
The letter signatories, including Balance, argue that displaying calorie information on alcohol labels can empower people to take control of their health. Alcohol is very energy-dense, with a large glass of white wine having the equivalent calories as a slice of pizza. For those who drink, alcohol accounts for nearly 10% of the daily calorie intake, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an additional days’ worth of calories each week – totalling the equivalent of an additional two months of food each year.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “The consultation on alcohol labelling is welcomed by both the public and many of the leading health experts in this country.
“People both want and deserve to know what is in their drinks. We already empower consumers to make decisions about their health by displaying nutritional information on food and soft drink labels, so why should alcohol – a product linked to 80 deaths a day – continue to be exempt?
“As well as calorie labelling, we need prominent health warnings on labels, including drink driving and pregnancy warnings as studies suggest that this could help reduce alcohol harm by increasing knowledge of the health risks and prompting behaviour change.”
The consultation on alcohol labelling is expected to begin in the summer.