The voluntary alcohol labelling pledge of 80% of drinks on shelf to include agreed labelling information has been met, according to a new report. The pledge is part of the Government's Responsibility Deal in which companies agree to voluntary actions intended to improve public health, though it has been controversial with various health partners walking out.
The labelling pledge was made in 2011 by 93 alcohol companies who would "ensure that over 80% of products on shelf (by December 2013) will have labels with clear unit content, NHS guidelines and a warning about drinking when pregnant." The report details an analysis of a sample of over 500 products on sale in the UK from a range of national, regional and independent supermarkets and off-licences.
Conducted by Campden BRI on behalf of the Portman Group, the analysis found 79.3% compliance with the pledge elements as measured by products on shelf. This measurement is described as Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), though the report also assessed 'alcohol content' - the proportion of all alcohol sold which carried appropriate labeling. For this measure, 69.9% of alcohol sold was found compliant.
The report breaks down the data to show compliance across the three key information messages and across different drinks and brands. Pregnancy information was the most consistently found, followed by unit content then lower risk guidelines. For drink types, labelling compliance was highest for beer (86.6% SKU), with cider also above (82.3%). However spirits averaged 79.4% with wine at just 51.8%.
Critics might raise a number of issues over the announcement, most obviously whether 79.3% counts as meeting an 80% target (the report highlights confidence intervals) or whether it was appropriate that the Portman Group monitored the pledge as an industry funded body. Perhaps more significantly though, as yet there appears no indication as to whether the pledge is expected to be maintained going forward. Or indeed, whether the current labelling pledge provides consumers with all the information they would like...
New calls for alcoholic drinks to include calorie content information recently hit the headlines following a new report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
The report says 67% of people surveyed said they would welcome calorie labels on the packaging of alcoholic drinks, and calls for the drinks industry and EU Health Commissioner to introduce calorie labelling.
The European Commission has committed to make a decision on extending nutrition labelling (including calorie labelling) on alcoholic products by December 2014. Alcoholic drinks are not currently recognised as food and are therefore exempted from normal food labelling under existing EU legislation. See here for an RSPH blog on the case for calorie labelling.
The RSPH polled 2,000 people to find out what they knew about the calories in alcohol and found that the majority had little idea. More than 80% did not know, or incorrectly guessed the calorie content of a large glass of wine whilst almost 90% did not know how many calories there were in a pint of lager.
The report suggests it is unclear as to whether improved calorie labelling might be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, with further research needed. In 2011 a joint BDA (British Dietetic Association) and Alcohol Concern Cymru briefing was released also highlighting nearly 10% of drinker's calorie intake comes from alcohol.