Alcohol labelling back on the menu

A row over calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks has heated up after reports claimed the government is planning to force large businesses to publish calorie information at the point of sale.

Citing leaked Department of Health plans, The Sun claimed pub menus or even pump labels would have to carry the information where businesses employ 250 or more people, while all alcohol sold in shops would have to publish calorie information and a health warning by law.

The move should come as no surprise to businesses: the government set out plans to end the current exemption for alcohol products from calorie labelling requirements in last summer’s obesity plan. It was due to consult on the proposal by the end of 2020, although no consultation document has yet been published.

However, the timing of the policy has angered business representatives. “Just when we are starting on the long road to recovery from the devastating impacts of covid, the government is planning another costly and complicated hit to struggling pubs and breweries,” said chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers, James Calder.

Calder explained that calculating calorie content accurately was much harder for small breweries which brew different beers throughout the year and use specialist ingredients, than for global breweries that make the same beer every day.

Health campaigners have previously welcomed the government’s plans for mandatory calorie labelling on alcohol products. Following the publication of the obesity strategy, the Alcohol Health Alliance said providing information on ingredients, nutrition and calories would help equip the public with the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions about what and how much they drink.

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