BY HELEN FRENCH
The rise in obesity is recognised as a major issue throughout Europe and is reflected in the European Commission’s view of the importance in conveying nutrition information to the consumer.
Nutrition labelling for all pre-packed products becomes mandatory on 13 December 2016, two years later than the general requirements from regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC), which came into force on 13 December 2014. However, the EU FIC exempts all alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2% ABV from mandatory nutrition labelling, although voluntary energy labelling is being encouraged.
One thing that has not changed is the declaration of nutrition and health claims, which are governed by separate legislation, regulation (EC) 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. Once a nutrition or a health claim is made then the need for nutrition information is triggered on the label.
Health claims are specifically banned on alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2% ABV and there are only a few nutrition claims that can be applied. These claims relate to low alcohol levels, or the reduction of the alcohol content, or the reduction of the energy content for beverages containing more than 1.2% ABV. These claims can be generally viewed as:-
However, these claims should not be used in a way which falsely implies that the product is low in alcohol, for instance having an ABV of 1.2% alcohol or less, nor should they be confused with UK national reduced-alcohol descriptions for alcoholic drinks that were contained in The Food Labelling Regulations 1996; although the legislation has been revoked, the descriptions are still currently applicable in the UK until 2018:
With the emphasis on health and wellbeing and the concern surrounding alcohol consumption, the Department of Health published on 8 January 2016 updated alcohol consumption guidelines, providing new advice on limits for men and pregnant women.
This new advice follows a detailed review of the scientific evidence used for the guidelines in 1995 and supported by a new review from the Committee on Carcinogenicity on alcohol and cancer risk. The UK Chief Medical Officers have considered and accepted advice of the expert group, which considered the most recent evidence on the health effects of alcohol and have agreed on three recommendations (a public consultation on the new guidelines is open). The recommendations are:
So, with the new proposed limits for alcoholic consumption, what is a unit of alcohol? This is described as a measure of the pure alcohol in a drink. Units are calculated by reference to the amount or volume of the drink, and the alcoholic strength (ABV). Units in wine and beer vary greatly due to the size of the drink, such as the comparison between the units contained within a small glass of wine to a large glass of wine, and the alcoholic strength, so it is important to know these two factors when calculating your alcohol intake. These guidelines are only recommendations and as yet there is no requirement to additionally label products.
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