Calorie counts on beer pumps would help drinkers, says Labour frontbencher

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, drinks a pint during a visit to the Wrexham Lager Brewery in 2021 - Peter Byrne/PA Archive
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, drinks a pint during a visit to the Wrexham Lager Brewery in 2021 - Peter Byrne/PA Archive

A Labour frontbencher has suggested that she would back putting calorie counts on beer pumps.

Liz Kendall suggested a law requiring English hospitality businesses with more than 250 employees to print calorie information about meals should be expanded to cover venues selling alcohol.

Ms Kendall faced a backlash from eating disorder campaigners and hospitality businesses on Friday after arguing that customers should have “knowledge and information” about their drinks to hand.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newscast political podcast, she said: “I’d like to know how many calories there are in alcohol. That’s another really big issue.”

Asked whether she would want counts to be displayed “on the pump”, she replied: “For me, I think that knowledge is power. I think we need to look across the board at all of this, to see what it is that we’re consuming so that people have got the knowledge and the information to do that.

“Because in the end, I’m not going to tell people what to do. You’ve got to give them the power and the knowledge to make the changes ... but also the ability to do that.”

‘Worsening eating disorder thoughts’

A Labour source insisted the party had “no plans” to add calorie counts to beer pumps and said Ms Kendall had argued that more information about calories would be a good thing.

Tom Quinn, the director of external affairs at Beat, an eating disorder charity, told The Telegraph: “When calories on menus were added to restaurants with over 250 employees in England last year, we know that this had a damaging impact on those with eating disorders.

“We’re concerned that including calorie counts on alcohol would also lead to worsening eating disorder thoughts and behaviours such as anxiety, restriction or binge-eating.

“Research indicates that calorie counting can exacerbate an eating disorder. However, there is very little evidence that adding calories to menus changes dietary habits among the general population.”

Mr Quinn said eating disorder experts and sufferers “must be consulted” before any changes were made, calling on the Government “to protect the 1.25 million people in the UK living with these serious mental illnesses”.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the idea was “disproportionate” and risked further harming struggling businesses in the cost of living crisis.

But Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Association Industries body, said it was “inevitable... that alcohol will come onto the agenda at some point in the future”.