We’re calling for alcohol product labels to be required to display health warnings and nutritional information to help consumers make informed decisions about their drinking.
Why is alcohol labelling important?
Labels are an important way to help consumers know more about the contents of the product that they are buying.
Under the law, food and non-alcoholic drinks must display nutritional information and cigarettes must display health warnings. Alcohol labels require neither.
As it stands, there is more product information on the label of a carton of orange juice than a bottle of wine; despite alcohol consumption being linked to seven types of cancer and more than 200 other diseases and health conditions.
What does the law require?
Unlike all other food and drinks, the law requires very little information on alcohol labels. The only information that is required is the volume of the container, the drink’s strength (alcohol by volume, ABV), and whether any of the 14 most common allergens are present.
Beyond this limited required information, the government has allowed a voluntary approach to alcohol labelling. The inclusion of all other information including the official low-risk drinking guidelines, health warnings, ingredients, nutritional information, and the number of units of alcohol in the container is left up to the producer.
Packaging and labelling is overseen by the alcohol industry funded Portman Group.
Why do we need better labelling on all alcohol products?
The public has a right to know what is in the products they buy in order to make informed choices about their purchases and what they choose to drink.
Alcohol harm is widespread, serious and poorly understood by drinkers. A Canadian study released in 2020 found that alcohol warning labels, like warnings on packets of cigarettes, are effective tools in helping drinkers make informed decisions. The study found consumers exposed to the labels were 10% more likely to know about the link between alcohol and cancer and three times more likely to be aware of the low-risk drinking guidelines.
Alcohol labels are one tool, among many, that could help reduce alcohol harm by increasing knowledge of the health risks and prompting behaviour change.
Alcohol companies are failing to provide consumers with sufficient information on product labels. A 2020 study by Action on Sugar found some alcohol products contain more than 100% of your recommended daily sugar intake, yet this information is not required to be displayed on the label.
The current system of voluntary labelling practices has failed to tackle the inconsistency, inadequacy and poor quality of alcohol labelling.
It is absurd that in a pub you buy a pint and 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, by law, it has to tell you the number of calories.Adrian Chiles, TV presenter, Commission on Alcohol Harm Report
Government action is urgently needed to protect and promote consumers’ right to information.
What is the Alcohol Health Alliance UK campaigning for?
We’re calling on the UK Government to:
- Ensure that consumers have the full picture of the contents and risk to health of the products they buy through legal requirements for clear labelling on all products. All alcohol product labels should include:
- The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on low-risk consumption
- A prominent health warning
- Pregnancy warning
- Drink-driving warning
- Age warning
- Units provided in a whole container and typical serving
- Ingredients and nutritional information such as calories
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