Poor labelling keeping drinkers ‘in the dark’

‘Woefully inadequate’ labelling is keeping consumers in the dark about the sugar and calorie content of their drinks, according to new analysis commissioned by the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

Wine bottles
Just 20 per cent of the labels displayed the wine’s calorie content.

It was possible to consume almost the entire recommended daily limit of sugar from two medium-sized glasses of popular wines, the researchers state. 

The study involved analysis of 30 bottles of leading-brand red, white, rosé, fruit and sparkling wines, none of which displayed sugar content on their labels, despite this being a requirement for non-alcoholic drinks. Just 20 per cent of the labels, meanwhile, displayed the wine’s calorie content. A 175ml glass of Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato was found to contain 13.8g of sugar, almost half of the government’s 30g a day guideline, while bottles of Yellow Tail Shiraz, Hardy Stamp Shiraz Cabernet, Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo and Casillero Del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon all contained close to 600 calories each. 

‘Alcohol is very energy dense, with just two medium-sized glasses of the most calorific wines analysed containing more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger,’ says AHA. However people who wanted to know the calorie content of their drinks would have no way of knowing in most cases, with AHA describing alcohol’s exemption from food and drink labelling regulation as ‘absurd’. Previous YouGov surveys have found that more than 60 per cent of people wanted calorie information included on alcohol labelling, with more than half wanting sugar content. The government promised to consult on calorie labelling for alcohol as part of its obesity strategy to ‘beat coronavirus and protect the NHS’ (DDN, September 2020, page 4), the results of which should be published ‘without delay’, says AHA.  

Dr Richard Piper is CEO of Alcohol Change UK

‘This study, along with so many others, reveals a huge failing in alcohol labelling,’ said Alcohol Change UK chief executive Dr Richard Piper. ‘We as consumers have a right to know what’s in the food and drink we consume and the effects it could have on our health. But time and again we uncover evidence of a woeful lack of even the most basic information on alcohol labelling. As shown by this study, the huge variation and lack of correlation between sugar and alcohol content in wines means that consumers have no way to even infer how much sugar they might be consuming. It’s totally unacceptable that so many alcohol labels continue to fail to display vital health information such as calories, ingredients or nutritional information, as well as the number of units in the bottle or a serving, and the chief medical officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines.’ 

Wine survey 2022 at ahauk.org


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