Adults can exceed daily sugar limit with two glasses of wine, say experts

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK said that alcohol labelling is ‘woefully inadequate’.

16 February 2022

Adults can exceed their recommended daily limit of sugar by drinking just two glasses of wine, experts have warned.

Drinks can also be packed with calories and in some cases two glasses of wine can contain more calories than a hamburger.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) said that product labelling on alcoholic drinks was “woefully inadequate” as it published new analysis on popular wines.

It looked at the calorie and sugar content of 30 bottles of red, white, rose, fruit and sparkling wine sold in the UK.

The alliance, which represents more than 60 health organisations, said that there is a wide variation of sugar and calories across different wines but they said that with this information missing from most labels consumers are “being kept in the dark” about what they are drinking.

It said that Government guidelines recommend that adults should consume no more than 30g of so-called free sugars per day but it is possible to reach almost this entire amount by drinking two medium glasses of wine.

The AHA analysis suggested that many of the most sugar-packed wines were the ones which had the lowest strength of alcohol.

It said that with no legal requirement to display sugar content on alcohol labels, drinkers may opt for a lower-strength alcohol thinking that this is a healthier option but could unwittingly be upping their daily sugar intake.

The analysis also examined the calories in wine.

The AHA said that just two medium-sized glasses of the most calorific wines analysed contain more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.

Wines with high calorie content also tended to be higher strength drinks.

The AHA said that none of the 30 products examined in the study displayed sugar content on their labels – information which is required for all non-alcoholic drinks.

Calorie content was only displayed on 20% of the labels examined.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said: “Alcohol’s current exemption from food and drink labelling rules is absurd.

“Shoppers who buy milk or orange juice have sugar content and nutritional information right at their fingertips.

“But this information is not required when it comes to alcohol – a product not just fuelling obesity but with widespread health harms and linked to seven types of cancer.

“The Government must publish its planned consultation on alcohol labelling without further delay – which we have been waiting for since 2020.

“As well as calorie labelling and nutritional information, we need prominent health warnings and the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk weekly drinking guidelines on labels. Studies suggest that this could help reduce alcohol harm by increasing knowledge of the health risks and prompting behaviour change.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, added: “Alcohol labelling is woefully inadequate in this country and allows the alcohol industry to decide what information it will and won’t include on its products, despite alcohol claiming the lives of 70 people a day in the UK.

“The alcohol industry have dragged their feet for long enough – unless labelling requirements are set out in law, we will continue to be kept in the dark about what is in our drinks.

“People want and need reliable information directly on bottles and cans, where it can usefully inform their decisions.”

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