Alcoholic Drinks Should Come With Calorie Counts, Warns Health Official

Alcoholic drinks are contributing to obesity and should come with mandatory calorie counts, the chairwoman of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has urged.

Dr Fiona Sim said she wanted to see labels on drinks show the calorie count, as well as the alcohol content.

She added that restaurant and bars should also carry calorie information on drinks menus.

Writing in the BMJ, Sim said research has found the public support the move, which is due to be voted on by MEPs tomorrow.

Currently alcoholic drinks that contain more than 1.2% alcohol are exempt from EU regulations on nutritional labelling that came into force in 2011 covering all food and soft drinks.

Research conducted last year by the RSPH found widespread public support for introducing calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks with more than two-thirds (67%) approving.

"It is impossible to ignore our failure to deal with obesity," Dr Sim wrote. "Drinking alcohol is common and, in excess, harmful. To what extent do the calories consumed in alcohol contribute to the obesity epidemic?"

The research found that 80% of 2,000 adults surveyed did not know the calorie content of common drinks, and most were completely unaware that alcohol contributed to the total calories that they consumed.

Most women, don't realise that two large glasses of wine, containing 370 calories, comprise almost a fifth of their daily recommended energy intake.

Dr Sim suggested that clinicians, who regularly ask their patients about their weight, eating habits and levels of exercise, should also ask them how many calories they are likely to consume through alcohol.

"There is no reason why calories in alcohol should be treated any differently from those in food," she added.

A spokesman for the Portman Group, which represents alcohol producers, said: "The responsible drinking message is just one of many ways that drinks companies provide information about sensible drinking to consumers.

"Alcohol producers and retailers are taking real action to encourage healthier lifestyles and foster a culture of responsible drinking."