Consumer group CHOICE has called for improved labelling on alcoholic drinks to help people compare their beverage options.
“For many people Christmas is a time to enjoy a festive drink but if they want to choose lower kilojoule tipples, right now they can’t easily compare their options,” said CHOICE spokesperson, Katinka Day.
“While consumers can find out the amount of kilojoules they’ll be consuming if they bite into a hamburger or a packet of chocolate biscuits, a loophole in Australia’s food regulation means that alcohol companies are exempt from providing this information. It doesn’t make sense that there’s one rule for a can of coke and another for a pre-mix can of coke and whiskey.”
CHOICE found that a can of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey & Cola has almost three times the kilojoules of a bottle of Pure Blonde Ultra Low Carb Lager. Kilojoule labelling would reveal that a can of Smirnoff Ice Double Black has almost two and a half the kilojoules as a glass of medium dry white wine.
“Our current labelling means that consumers can’t make side-by-side comparisons of alcoholic beverages and we can’t rely on alcohol companies fixing this themselves,” said Day. “While some alcohol companies voluntarily provide nutrition information, on closer look, they pull the sneaky tactic of not disclosing kilojoules on all of their products, especially their high kilojoule options.”
The consumer group said Lion displays nutritional information on its beers, but not its ciders which are generally higher in kJ. Carlton and United Breweries publishes the kilojoule content of its beer and cider products but not for 22 of the 28 spirits listed on its website.
Alcohol is classified as a discretionary food by Australia’s Dietary Guidelines – meaning it’s packed with kilojoules but offers little or nothing in the way of beneficial nutrients – and is the number one food group contributing to Australians’ energy intake from discretionary foods.
Australia’s Health and Food ministers recently agreed to launch a public consultation on kilojoule labelling on alcoholic beverages in early 2018. CHOICE is calling on health ministers to require alcohol companies to be honest about what’s in their drinks and warns against allowing the industry to self-regulate.
“It’s absurd alcohol companies can exploit this labelling loophole. Without such basic information, consumers aren’t able to make an informed choice,” said Day.