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Calories Count Recommended for Wine Labels in UK

Posted: Saturday, 01 November 2014 14:41

Calories Count Recommended for Wine Labels in UK

Nov 01: Concerned with the obesity epidemic with most people not having any idea how many calories their drinks contain, public health experts in UK have recommended that their calorific counts should be mentioned on the labels-something that FSSAI should be looking at for Indian consumers rather than focussing on the inane looking features like ingredients despite the expected opposition to the move by the industry

Click For Large ViewA large 150 ml glass of 13% ABV (alcohol by volume) red wine contains about 130 calories; a bottle of alcopop contains 170 and a pint of 4% ABV beer contains 180 calories. According to the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) over 60% of people do not know how many calories there are in beer or wine; in India this number could be even larger. RSPH explicitly links alcohol with obesity.

“We would argue that in addition to this information, calorie content should be included with some urgency. The public’s health is under threat from an obesity epidemic and harm caused by irresponsible consumption of alcohol,” it says.

The RSPH polled over 2,000 people to find out what they knew about the calories in alcohol and found that the vast majority had little idea. More than 80% did not correctly know the calorie content of a large glass of wine. And almost 60% did not know how many calories there were in a pint of lager, according to the report in the Guardian. But there was support for the information being made available – 67% said they would welcome calorie labels on the packaging of alcoholic drinks.

The European Commission will decide by December whether to put nutritional labels including calories, on drinks. At the moment they are exempt; labelling is only required for food. Health experts are in favour but as expected, the alcohol industry is resisting the proposed change. As a compromise of sorts, the UK drinks companies have agreed to put alcohol units on the labels, but not calories. Unfortunately, the concept of even the unit of alcohol has not yet evolved in India.

In England about two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight, which is a risk for serious life-shortening diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer and type- 2 Diabetes.

One unit of alcohol is 56 calories; so weaker drinks are less fattening, although those with mixers containing sugar will be higher in calories. Same would be true for wines containing higher residual sugar. Nearly 10% of the calorific intake for drinkers is estimated from alcohol.

But the calories are not the only problem. Alcohol cannot be stored in the body but is converted to acetate in the liver and then released into the bloodstream, inhibiting the amount of fat the body burns from food. Alcohol consumption also interferes with appetite regulatory hormones, apparently leading drinkers to eat more.

There is evidence that heavy drinkers, imbibing four or more drinks a day, are at greater risk of obesity than moderate or non-drinkers. Binge-drinkers are also at higher risk of being overweight or obese than those who spread their drinking over different days.

Earlier this year the well known Sainsbury UK announced that it is in the process of voluntarily including the information on its private labels (see the label above left) within two years, according to Decanter. Generally, the UK government is of the same view but has relied on the voluntary action by the drinks manufacturers but one is likely to see more of such pressures and lobbying with health conscious groups pitching for such information.

Wine is good for health when taken in moderation. The obesity is yet another factor in the favour of responsible and moderate drinking. The recommendation from RSPH has merit and one hopes EU applies the code of labelling for all the products and insists on imports carrying such information on the labels

Indian Wine Academy and delWine would support any such initiative by the Indian government for the labels to contain units of alcohol and the calories in a drink. This is an important consumer issue with obesity on the increase and the increasing problem of diabetes. With over 600 million cases of liquor and beer guzzled every year, it is an important part of the labelling- much more important than the inane issues like ingredients on the labels that the FSSAI has been bogged down with- even less trivial looking issues have played havoc with the Indian food and wine industry-editor

Tags: Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH)

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