How Alcohol Labelling is Failing Consumers?

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With alcohol addiction and the need for alcohol rehab treatment still being an issue, many companies are trying to find out how the industry can take some of the blame. Recent research from Alcohol Change UK has found that alcohol labels in the UK do not display all of the information which a consumer needs. This calls for mandatory comprehensive labelling of alcoholic products – the industry must be held accountable.

What is the issue with alcohol labels?

Unlike other food and drink products in shops, there is no legal requirement to display vital health-related information on the label of an alcoholic beverage. Different parts of the alcohol industry choose whether they want to include this information or exclude it – with no industry-wide consensus or check if the labels are not containing what they should.

Some choose to display health information like the ingredients, the number of calories, drinking guidelines, and the number of units the drink contains – but this is only optional. When these things are included on the label, they are often too small to read with ease, or the information is misleading.

All of this, however, has been common knowledge for some time now – but Alcohol Change UK and Alcohol Health Alliance wanted to prove how widespread this issue is. Consumers have the right to know – why should alcohol be allowed to be different from other products?

Back in 2016, Chief Medical Officers in the UK actually updated the guidelines to low-risk drinking. It was agreed that the industry had 3 years to put the information on the label – which would have meant September 2019.

So, what were the findings?

  • The new low-risk drinking guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer
  • Number of units per container and serving
  • Pregnancy warnings
  • A health risk warning
  • The ingredients
  • Calories and other nutritional information
  • Drink-drive warnings
  • Age warnings (not for those under the age of 18)

What they found is, the majority of labels do not include this vital information. More than 70% did not include the new drinking guidelines – over three years after they were updated and it was agreed they were to be included.

More than half the labels checked had no nutritional information whatsoever – with only 37% listing the number of calories.

Nearly a whole quarter, 24%, of the labels contained misleading information on health risks. Some with out-of-date, old guidelines, and others with guidelines from different countries that do not apply here.

Alcohol Change is now calling for the UK government to make it mandatory that all alcohol labels are comprehensive.



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