Should we know as much about what goes into the alcohol we drink as we do with the food we eat? MEPs this week joined health experts in backing calls for calorie labels on alcohol. Is this something you’d look out for?
Over this bank holiday weekend, I’m likely at some point to tuck into a takeaway pizza and enjoy a drink. The pizza box will tell me how many calories I eat, along with how much salt, sugar and so on. But the wine or beer will tell me none of this.
We’re so used to seeing a long list of ingredients for the food we eat that we probably think nothing about it. And an increasing number of restaurants tell us more about the food they serve. Yet, look at a bottle of beer or wine and pretty much all you’ll be able to tell is the percentage of alcohol it contains and what colour it is.
That’s because drinks containing more than 1.2% alcohol are exempt from the labelling legislation that came in to force in 2011.
MEPs vote for calorie labelling on drinks
A vote in the European Parliament has now come out in favour of printing calories on all alcoholic drinks.
The vote isn’t binding and it could take years for it to become law, but the MEPs say that having mandatory calorie labels will help tackle rising levels of obesity. Did you know, for example, that a large glass of wine can contain around 200 calories? That’s about the same as a doughnut.
Last year the Royal Society for Public Health made a similar plea and suggested that 80% of adults have no idea what the calorie count is in what they’re drinking.
Other ingredients in alcoholic drinks
Here’s a question for you – if we’re told about how many calories are in our drink, do you think we should also know what ingredients it contains? Again, you’ll know from the labels on food and soft drinks whether they contain additives such as colourings and flavourings – but you won’t find that on alcoholic drinks.
The Food Information Regulation requires that all food and soft drinks list ingredients, as well as levels of fat, sugars, salt and more. But alcoholic drinks are exempt. This is despite Which? and its sister organisations across Europe having called for ingredients to be listed on alcoholic drinks for many years. The only thing that needs to be listed on alcohol are allergens, such as eggs or milk.
Do you want to see calories listed on alcoholic drinks? Do you think other ingredients should be listed so that you would know, for example, whether it was suitable for a vegetarian?