‘Alcopops’ should be subject to sugar levy

Health campaigners have criticised the government for omitting alcoholic drinks from the sugar levy after a survey revealed that some pre-mixed spirits and cocktails contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Popular ‘ready to drink’ (RTD) pre-mixed spirits and cocktails sold in supermarkets are extremely high in hidden sugar and calories whilst lacking in on-pack nutrition information, according to Action on Sugar.

The group surveyed a total of 202 RTD alcoholic beverages in-store and online of which only 63 products available to purchase in-store had some form of nutrition information on pack and only 14 provided sugar information. Independent laboratory analysis was used to determine the sugar content of drinks where information was unavailable on pack or on the manufacturer’s website.

Among the worst offending pre-mixed cocktails were TGI Fridays Passion Fruit Martini which analysis showed contained 49g of sugar (12 teaspoons) in a 500ml pack, and Tesco Strawberry Daiquiri Alcoholic Frozen Sorbet for which a 250ml pack contained 36g of sugar (9 teaspoons).

WKD Blue and VK Blue were the worst offending ‘alcopops’ while pre-mixed spirits from the likes of Archers, Malibu and Goslings also scored highly for sugar content.

Campaigners said it was “absurd” that the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) had been successful in reducing sugar in drinks like lemonade yet a vodka and lemonade is exempt.

Action on Sugar called on the new government to ensure that all alcoholic drinks are reformulated to the agreed criterion set out in the SDIL or be subject to paying the levy. It noted that the fact there are huge disparities in the sugar contents of similar drinks proved that lower-sugar products can be produced easily.

“Customers should be able to purchase better options and reformulating these drinks with less sugar, calories and alcohol is one way to achieve this,” said Holly Gabriel, registered nutritionist at Action on Sugar.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, urged the government to introduce mandatory labelling on alcohol products in order to give people easy access to the information needed to make healthier choices. “Consumers have the right to know exactly what they are drinking,” said Gilmore. “This latest research demonstrates - once again - that the current system of the self-regulation of alcohol labelling isn’t working and the industry is not taking its responsibilities seriously.”

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