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Johnson’s anti-obesity drive triggers ‘hidden calorie’ consultation

Published:  27 July, 2020

A consultation is being launched as to whether the ‘hidden calories’ in alcohol should form part of wider communication across both the on- and off-trades in order to tackle soaring obesity rates.

Confirming previous suspicions as to whether a consolation could be on the cards, the government has today (27 July) announced that a new consultation on alcohol calorie labelling is due to be launched before the end of the year as part of government’s plans to get tough on obesity.

Based on revelations that the majority of the public (80%) is “unaware of the calorie content of common drinks”, the government is now launching a new campaign to help people improve health and wellbeing after the Covid-19 ‘wake-up call’.

Published today, the ‘Tackling obesity: government strategy’ policy paper said that alcohol consumption has been estimated to account for nearly 10% of the calorie intake of those who drink, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an additional day’s worth of calories each week. That adds up to an additional two months of food each year, the government said.

Given that many consumers “typically underestimate the true [calorie] content” of alcohol, calorie labelling on alcohol could potentially be mandatory on bar and restaurant menus.

The measures are widely believed to have been accelerated by the coronavirus epidemic as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own health struggles which resulted in a spell in intensive care.

Reversing his earlier stance against “nannying” politics, Johnson is now pushing ahead for greater calorie clarity, saying in a statement that “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier.

“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”

According to the policy paper, almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity.

The plans to put ‘hidden calorie’ labelling out to consultation is part of a wider raft of measures aimed at helping people make healthier choices, including a ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm. It could also spell the of end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy foods.