Alcohol labels could include calorie content

Ministers are in talks with the drinks industry about using calorie labels on beer, wine and spirits to combat rising obesity levels in Britain.

In response to a Parliamentary Question, health minister Anna Soubry said officials have been in talks about “the possible inclusion of calorie content on labels” with the trade.

She said: “The government is committed to improving the labelling of alcoholic drinks, which would help make people more aware of how much alcohol they are drinking, what the guidelines are and what the risks are, including for those who are pregnant.

“The department has discussed the possible inclusion of calorie content on labels with representatives of the alcohol industry on a number of occasions.”

The industry’s Responsibility Deal with the government has already seen labels detailing the amount of units in a drink plastered on bottles and cans of beer, wine, spirits and RTDs.

A similar agreement has seen the likes of McDonalds, KFC and Pret a Manger provide calorie information on their menus.

But calorie information has never appeared on alcohol packaging.

A large glass of wine contains around 200 calories, while a pint of 5% abv beer contains 215 calories – the equivalent of a slice of pizza or a few biscuits.

The Government hopes calorie labels running alongside information about how many units are in an alcoholic drink will make drinkers think more about how alcohol impacts on their waistlines.

Soubry, who recently caused controversy when she suggested it is easy to spot poor people because they are so often obese, added there is a chance the European Commission could suggest mandatory calorie information on alcoholic drinks when it reviews the issue within two years.

The Department of Health said officials are “continuing to work with industry on the labeling of alcoholic drinks”.

It added: "By the end of this year, 80 per cent of all alcoholic drinks on shop shelves will include clear labelling on units and health messages.

“Through the Responsibility Deal we will continue to discuss how to give consumers more information on alcoholic drinks, including calorie labelling."

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