500ml of beer 'packs as many calories as' a chocolate bar
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS tipplers may be closer to finding out just how many calories they are imbibing, as consumer advocates push for nutritional labelling on alcoholic drinks in the face of strong industry resistance in the European Union.
The European Parliament took the first step last month when it called on the European Commission to draw up legislation requiring such labelling by next year.
Adopted by 63 of the 68 members of the Parliament's health committee, the resolution also calls for labels that highlight the dangers of alcohol for pregnant women and motorists.
"Consumers have a right to know that a glass of wine has the same number of calories as a slice of cake and that drinking while pregnant can harm your baby," said Glenis Willmott - a Labour Member of the European Parliament from Britain - who steered the proposal through the committee.
"This isn't about telling people what to do, but giving them the information they need to make informed choices," Ms Willmott added.
Ilaria Passarani, an official with the European Consumer Organisation advocacy group, asked: "How many people know that an average half litre (around one pint) of five per cent alcohol beer contains as many calories as a chocolate bar?"
The committee's non-binding resolution is due to be voted on by the full Parliament at the end of this month.
For Britain and the Scandinavian countries, it is becoming imperative to curb binge drinking among the young, as well as to fight the increase in obesity, which is partly fuelled by alcohol consumption.
Spotting the trend, Carlsberg, Heineken, AB Inbev and SABMiller last month all backed a plan to voluntarily list the calorie count and other nutritional information on their beers.
The Brewers of Europe, a trade association representing more than 5,000 brewers, said the move will show that beer is not as fattening as some people think when compared to wine and spirits.
The group published a table comparing calories in 100ml of various drinks: 245 calories for whisky, 82 for red wine and 46 for beer containing 4.5 per cent or 5.5 per cent alcohol - the same as for fresh orange juice.
Spirit-makers cried foul, saying the brewers' move was misleading and undermined messages about responsible drinking.
"While 100 ml is usually a fraction of the amount of beer a person might consume in one serving, it can equal three servings of spirits - the maximum daily recommendation for men and beyond what is recommended for women," said industry group SpiritsEurope.