Standardised labelling information on beer, wine and distilled spirits is being considered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the US, after a survey revealed consumers want to know the alcoholic content of drinks.

The surveys group Penn, Schoen and Berland's (PSB) said yesterday (22 January) that the online survey of 503 adults in the US showed that 79% agreed with the statement: "There is no point in having labelling on the containers of alcohol beverages unless labels include all nutrition and ingredient information, including the amount of alcohol in each drink."

The survey, conducted for 'Shape Up America!' said that consumers not only want to know the percentage of alcohol by volume, the serving size and the amount of alcohol per serving, but also the definition of a 'standard drink' and the number of standard drinks per container.

Shape Up America! President, Dr Barbara Moore, said: "Today, even the most basic information about alcohol beverages is not required to be provided on the labels of most alcohol beverage products. It's time to give consumers complete and detailed information about the alcohol content and number of calories in all beverage alcohol products so they can make informed and responsible purchasing and consumption decisions. Anything less is hardly a victory for public health. "

A total of 92% of those surveyed ranked "the amount of alcohol in each drink" as the top priority for required information on an alcoholic drink's label, followed by 84% who see the calorie content as important. The amount of carbohydrates is considered less important at 75%, with amount of fat at 71% and protein at 66%, despite consumers also valuing the information.

The US public supported the method of using alcohol labels to educate consumers about following the Dietary Guidelines' advice on moderate drinking, which is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks a day for men, the (WHAT IS SHAPE UP AMERICA?) said.

79% of the public surveyed said that they would support alcohol labelling that summarises the dietary guidelines advice. While 81% added that they would benefit from knowing that a standard drink is defined as containing 0.6oz of pure alcohol, which translates into 12oz of regular beer, 5oz of wine, or 1.5oz of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Moore added: "Although TTB believes this amount of information will confuse consumers, our survey clearly shows that, when it comes to labelling information, consumers are savvy about using labels as information tools. There is an immediate need for clear and complete information on alcohol labels and consumers should have access to it as soon as possible."

The survey also asked respondents to review three alternative labels that could be placed on alcoholic beverage containers. When asked to compare the different options, 76% opted for a label that combines the information required under TTB's proposed rulemaking (the amount of calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein) with the amount of alcohol per serving and the statement "a standard drink contains 0.6 fluid oz of alcohol." In contrast, only 7% chose the format proposed under TTB's rulemaking, PSB added.