When we want to find out how healthy a food product is, we usually turn to the nutritional information on labels. But it’s a different story when it comes to alcohol.
All packaged food and drinks are required by law to contain a Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) on labels. This shows the amount of energy (kilojoules), protein, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and other key nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Alcohol is an exception to this rule, with alcoholic drinks not required to have any labels showing their nutritional information.
Alcoholic drinks are high in energy and can contribute to weight gain, yet Australians are in the dark about how many kilojoules they’re drinking when they have a beer or wine. With two in three Australian adults living with overweight or obesity, it’s something that should be available to inform our choice.
Since 2011, fast-food chains in NSW and other states must show the kilojoule content of standard products on their menus. Research has shown that consumers choose meals with fewer kilojoules thanks to kilojoule labelling.
Without nutrition information on alcoholic drinks, we cannot tell how much alcohol contributes to our kilojoule intake.
Weight gain and body fatness are linked to 13 different types of cancer. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, esophagus, breast, bowel and liver cancer. There is also evidence that the risk of developing these cancers increases with higher levels of alcohol consumption – the more you drink, the greater the risk.
Alcohol companies can voluntarily provide nutrition information for their alcoholic drinks. Still, they often only do this for drinks marketed as lower kilojoule, low in sugar or gluten free.
The evidence is clear: even small amounts of alcohol can impact our health. Certainly, the impact of alcohol on cancer risk goes beyond kilojoule intake and weight gain. But not requiring nutritional labels on alcohol means people can’t find out what they’re drinking and how it may impact their health.
Cancer Council NSW supports kilojoule labelling for alcoholic drinks to help consumers make informed decisions. Ultimately, when we drink alcohol, we’re consuming kilojoules, so there is no reason for them to be exempt.