Drinks companies should label their alcoholic products to show the number of calories they contain as part of a bid to tackle obesity, a health organisation has said.
Irresponsible drinking is causing an obesity epidemic and threatening public health, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said.
The majority of the 2,117 UK adults they asked in a poll this month either did not know or underestimated the number of calories in a glass of wine and a pint of lager.
Of the adults across Britain who drink, nearly 10% of their daily calories come from alcohol, the RSPH said, adding that labels would help people to make “informed choices” before they buy.
In a paper on the “invisible” calories in alcohol, the organisation called for calorie counts to be included alongside the number of units, daily guidelines advice and pregnancy warnings, which drinks companies agreed to include on their packaging as part of a deal with the Government in 2011.
The paper said: “RSPH believes that given alcohol provides approximately 10% of energy intake for adults who drink, public confusion about the calories contained within alcoholic drinks, and the use by consumers of calorie labelling on food products to make informed choices, nutritional information including calorie content should be extended to alcoholic beverages.”
The RSPH has urged the labelling change to be brought in throughout the EU.
More research into the relationship between drinking and weight is needed, it said, to look at the potential effectiveness of using labels which show calorie counts to reduce the amount of alcohol people consume.
RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer told the BBC the poll findings were “quite startling”.
She said: “80% of adults have no idea what the calorie count is in anything they’re drinking and if they do think they have an idea they totally underestimate it anyway.
“It (calories on labels) could help the nation’s waistlines as well as probably reduce alcohol consumption.”