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Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks in cans and bottles 'contain hidden sugar'

By Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor

Pre-mixed alcoholic drinks sold in shops and supermarkets contain as much as eight or nine teaspoons of sugar, researchers say.

The drinks - such as a double shot of vodka mixed with cola or fruit-flavoured alcopops - have increased in popularity in recent years and are often sold in single bottles or 250ml cans.

Now, experts from Action on Sugar are calling for the drinks to be subject to the Government's "sugar tax" which has been imposed on soft drinks.

The sugar tax came into force in 2018 and has led to an average 28.8% reduction in sugar per 100ml of soft drink.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, backed the call from Action on Sugar, saying: "Consumers have the right to know exactly what they are drinking.

"This latest research demonstrates - once again - that the current system of the self-regulation of alcohol labelling isn't working and the industry is not taking its responsibilities seriously.

"Shoppers who buy alcohol get less information about what's in their drink than those who buy milk or orange juice. This is simply outrageous.

"We urge the Government to introduce mandatory labelling on alcohol products in order to give all of us easy access to the information needed to make healthier choices."

The Action on Sugar research of 154 "ready to drink" alcoholic drinks found most were high in hidden sugar and calories.

It found only 63 products had some form of nutritional information on the pack and only 14 had sugar information on the pack.

Some drinks had as much as 33g of sugar (eight teaspoons) in a 250ml can, while a frozen alcoholic sorbet had 36g (nine teaspoons) per 250ml serving.

Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, based at Queen Mary University of London, said: "'Gin in a tin' has become a cultural phenomenon with these types of drinks often consumed 'on the go' and without a moment's consideration to how much sugar and alcohol goes into making them.

"Even if you did want to know, you can't make a healthy choice as only one in 10 of the products surveyed had enough information available.

"If consumers knew how much sugar was really in these drinks, would they still happily choose to drink their way to tooth decay, obesity and Type 2 diabetes?"

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: "Sugary alcoholic drinks are a double burden on our health: alcohol causes serious harm, and sugar in these drinks carries the same health risks as sugar in any other food or drink, which costs the NHS billions and shortens lives.

"It is a national scandal that because these drinks contain alcohol, they are not subject to the sugar tax or any form of coherent nutrition labelling.

"The new Government needs to act now by taking control of the alcohol industry and stop them from exploiting vulnerable young adults."

John Timothy, group chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, said: "The action is already under way.

"The industry has signed up to a number of Europe-wide voluntary commitments on nutrition which will give consumers access to information both on labels and through websites within the next two years.

"Many drinks producers also already offer lower calorie alternatives to give consumers greater choice."