Nutritional labelling of alcoholic drinks
Labelling of ingredients and nutrition information on most alcoholic drinks has long been voluntary in the United Kingdom, European Union and most world markets. However, many trade associations have introduced voluntary schemes to provide this information.
The European Commission published a report in spring 2017 calling on the alcoholic drinks industry to develop a voluntary code of practice to communicate the ingredients and nutrition information to consumers, either on label or off label (i.e. online).
Current European food information regulations (the “Food Information to Consumers Regulation”, or "FIC") specifies how information, including ingredients and nutrition information, should be provided to consumers, even if given on a voluntary basis. In general terms, the following must appear in the order indicated:
- Energy, expressed in both kilojoules and kilocalories
- Fats, in grams
- Of which saturates, in grams
- Carbohydrates, in grams
- Of which sugars, in grams
- Protein, in grams
- Salt, in grams
This information must be declared per 100g or 100ml of food as a minimum and it should be displayed in a table. Other nutrients, such as fibre, may be included on an optional basis. There are tolerances to allow for seasonal variation of these values. Companies can additionally choose to declare the amounts per labelled portion and as a percentage of Reference Intakes (both on a per 100ml basis and per portion basis).
Exceptions for alcoholic drinks
Alcoholic drinks containing greater than 1.2% alcohol by volume can deviate from the standard nutritional labelling format slightly. Manufacturers have two choices: to list the energy values only or to list all nutrients. To reduce the size of the nutritional table and save space on the label, manufacturers can choose to remove any nutrients that have a zero value and instead add them within a footnote that says, for example, "contains insignificant amounts of fat".
International nutrition labelling requirements
Markets outside the European Union have different rules on nutrition labelling for alcoholic beverages. In the United States, nutrition labelling is mandatory for ciders and other wines below 7% alcohol by volume, as such products must follow prescriptive rules set by the Food and Drug Administration. Most alcoholic beverages in the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, who have provided information (in Ruling 2013-2) on how the growing number of business wishing to voluntarily provide such information may give information on Calorie, Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat content in their alcoholic beverages (such as those doing so under the Beer Institute pledge to provide such information by end of 2020). Increasing numbers of brewers in Australia are also providing nutrition information voluntarily, declared on a per serving and per 100ml basis. Russian regulations require the declaration of any nutrients that contribute greater than 2% of the reference daily intake.
What to test for
We have seen a rise in demand for nutritional analysis of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is the primary source of energy in alcoholic beverages. The standard FIC panel of analyses does not include alcohol but we give our clients the option to add this test. Acidity has its own calorific value so it’s important to test for this where appropriate. Most alcoholic drinks don’t contain fibre and since it’s not a mandatory FIC requirement our fibre test is optional when carrying out nutritional analysis of alcoholic drinks. We offer a reduced price and faster turnaround for clients that choose to exclude the fibre test.
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