Labelling alcoholic beverages with calorie information is potentially among ‘a raft of measures’ the UK Government is set to include as part of a new Obesity Strategy to get the nation fit and healthy, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The new campaign comes after a ‘COVID-19 wake-up call’ in which the impact of the virus revealed how excess weight puts people who contracted it at greater risk of serious illness or death.

The strategy’s plan to mandate the display of ‘liquid calories’ on alcoholic drinks will be put to a new consultation before the end of the year.

Alcohol consumption has been estimated to account for nearly 10% of the calorie intake of those who drink, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an additional days’ worth of calories each week – totalling an additional two months of food each year. But research shows the majority of the public (80%) is unaware of the calorie content of common drinks and many typically underestimate the true content. It is hoped alcohol labelling could lead to a reduction in consumption, improving people’s health and reducing their waistline.

Following the government’s announcement, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said:

The government’s plans to consult on ending the current exemption for alcohol products from calorie labelling requirements are very welcome. When the calorie equivalent of a large glass of white wine is the same as a slice of pizza or a cocktail is the equivalent of a cheeseburger, it is clear why alcohol products should be included in the government’s plans to tackle the obesity crisis.
Alcohol is a factor in more than 200 health conditions and is the leading risk factor of death among 15-49 year olds in England. Labelling on all alcohol products with prominent health warnings, low risk drinking guidelines, information on ingredients, nutrition and calories would help equip the public with the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions about what and how much they drink. If we want to build a healthier, more resilient society we need to wake up to the harm alcohol does to people’s health.