Alcoholic drinks should have calorie counts on their packaging to help fight obesity, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
The lobby group, which represents local authorities, said its research showed the public was less aware of the “hidden” calories in alcohol than they were about its potential to cause illness. Labelling would “enable choice,” it added.
Some 80% of members of the public did not know there were up to 228 calories in a large glass of wine, while nearly nine in 10 were unaware that a pint of lager contained around 180. Such calories are “empty” because they hold no nutritional value and alcohol also reduces the amount of fat burned for energy, the LGA said.
Two-thirds of those who took part in the survey supported the idea of labelling bottles and cans.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community well-being spokeswoman, said making the public more informed could save the NHS money.
She said, “Breweries and drinks manufacturers should show leadership in tackling the obesity crisis, by voluntarily providing clear signs on bottles and cans of alcohol. Most people are aware that excessive alcohol can lead to serious health problems like liver and heart damage, and an increased risk of cancer.
“However, the amount of calories from an average night’s drinking isn’t so well-known. People should be able to make informed choices. The onus is on the big breweries to do more to provide clear and prominent labelling.
“Providing people with the right information allows them to make choices about what they eat and drink. Prevention is the only way we are going to tackle the obesity crisis, which is costing the NHS more than £5 billion every year.”
The LGA said a 4.5%-strength cider had 216 calories and was equivalent to eating around three-quarters of a burger, while drinking five pints over the course of a day was the same as eating three burgers, with the calories taking an hour-and-a-half to burn off by running.