The UK public want to know more about what’s in their drink

Posted on: 19th May 2021

New research by the Alcohol Health Alliance (an alliance of more than 50 organisations that includes the British Liver Trust), shows that the majority of the general public wants alcohol labelling to tell them more about what’s in their drink.

The YouGov poll showed that 75% of people in the UK wants to know the number of units in a drink, 61% want calorie information and 53% want to know the amount of sugar.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “Displaying calorie information on alcohol labels can empower people to take control of their health and make informed choices.

“The current voluntary system of alcohol labelling is not working. Despite the Government’s efforts to encourage alcohol producers to reflect the drinking guidelines on labels, research by the Alcohol Health Alliance shows that more than 70% of the labels reviewed did not include the up-to-date guidelines. We now need legislation to empower consumers and provide transparency.”

The British Liver Trust has signed a letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock in support of better alcohol labelling and will continue to work with the Alcohol Health Alliance to make this happen.

Why labels matter

Alcohol is very energy dense, with a large glass of white wine having the equivalent calories as a slice of pizza. For those who drink, alcohol accounts for nearly 10% of the daily calorie intake, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an additional days’ worth of calories each week – totalling an additional two months of food each year. Yet, the majority of the public (80%) is unaware of the calorie content of common drinks.

Alcohol labels are an effective tool to change that: a study in Canada showed that consumers exposed to health warnings on labels were three times more likely to be aware of the drinking guidelines, and were also more likely to know about the link between alcohol and cancer.

As well as calorie labelling, the British Liver Trust supports providing further health information on alcohol labels, including the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines. Alcohol is linked to 80 deaths a day in the UK, and yet, alcohol harm is poorly understood by drinkers: only one in five people know the drinking guidelines, and only one in ten can spontaneously identify cancer as a health consequence of alcohol.