Pints of beer in pubs ‘should have calorie labels like crisps’

Pints of beer in pubs should carry calorie labels like packets of crisps, according to a new report. 

The report, by the Commission on Alcohol Harm, pointed out that people who drink get nearly 10 per cent of their daily calorie intake from alcohol and called for an end to alcohol’s exemption from nutritional labelling.

It comes after a Royal College of Psychiatrists report found that the number of people drinking alcohol at higher risk levels in England rose to 8.4 million in June from 4.8 million in February. 

“Research by Action on Sugar indicates that a standard 500ml ready-to-drink alcoholic drink can contain up to 49.1g of sugar per bottle – over 12 teaspoons of sugar,” said the report. 

Alcoholic drinks are exempt from the labelling requirements for food and non-alcoholic drinks and are only required to display the volume and strength in ABV – alcohol by volume – with some wines required to include allergens. 

Information on nutritional values including calories, ingredients, health warnings or even how many units of alcohol a product contains is not required and is therefore largely absent from labels.

Annie Anderson, a professor of public health nutrition, told the commission: “I’m shocked how far alcohol is always kept out of nutrition policy.”

The TV presenter Adrian Chiles, who explored labelling in a programme for BBC Panorama, also contributed to the report and said: “It is absurd in a pub that you buy a pint, it doesn’t have to tell you how many calories are in it, but you buy a bag of crisps to go with the pint and by law it has to give you the number of calories.”

The report said that, where information is available on labels, in many cases it is inaccurate, in a small font size or in an inaccessible format. 

A recent report by the World Health Organisation cited a study which found that the mean font size for guidelines on products was 8.17, smaller than the 10-11 font size considered optimal for legibility.

Mr Chiles said: “I didn’t realise I needed reading glasses actually until I was trying to see silver on white on a Stella can.” 

Baroness Ilora Finlay, the commission chairwoman, said the time has come to “put the responsibility squarely with the harmful product itself”.

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