Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have backed a resolution calling for labels displaying calorie information to be put on all alcoholic beverages by the end of 2016.
UK health experts, which have been long been campaigning for nutritional labels on alcohol, say the legislation is vital in tackling the nation’s obesity problems.
While there is currently no UK legislation of this kind for alcohol, in 2011 a law was passed requiring food and soft drinks – including fruit juice and milk – to label nutritional information and ingredients. If the draft resolution for alcohol is approved, the European Commission could make it law.
An ongoing campaign by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has been urging the European Health Commission to include this in EU legislation.
Writing in the BMJ, the RSPH chairwoman Fiona Sim, said drinks should come with mandatory calorie counts.
In her report she said research by the RSPH last year found that 80% of 2,000 adults surveyed did not know the calorie content of common drinks and most were unaware that alcohol contributed to the calories they consumed. Meanwhile 90% of those surveyed incorrectly estimated (or did not know) the amount of calories in a pint of lager.
An estimated 10% of an alcohol drinker’s calorie intake is thought to come from alcohol.
“There is no reason why calories in alcohol should be treated any differently from those in food,” Sim said.
Earlier this year Diageo (which produces key brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff and Baileys) announced it would be displaying nutrition information labels, detailing calories, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol content, across all of its product packaging.