Pulling a fast one? Nearly 90% of beer served in UK pubs and bars is short-measured – study finds

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Punters hoping to enjoy a swift pint may have been left with a bit of a headache – after an investigation found nearly 90% of beer served in UK pubs and bars is short-measured.

Trading Standards officers ordered beer and wine at 77 pubs and bars and were served 96 short measures out of 137 orders.

This means more than two-third of drinks (around 70%) were less than the prescribed quantity required by the Weights and Measures Order for pints and half pints and 175ml glasses of wine.

Some 86% of the beer ordered was short-measured, as was 43% of the wine.

Of the short-measures, 41 of the drinks were under by 5% or more. This represents 29% of the 137 drinks tested.

The average deficit for short-measured beer was 4%, while for wine it was 5%.

For the average beer drinker, this equates to a loss of £1.70 per week, or £88.40 a year, and for an average wine drinker in the UK this jumps to £2.20 per week or £114.40 per year, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said.

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The largest short-measure was 15% under, found in a 175ml glass of wine in Walsall, with the drink costing £3.20.

The next largest short-measure was under by 13.4% – found in Belfast in a glass of wine costing £7.20. The third largest deficit was of 12% and found in a 175ml glass of wine bought in Havering, costing £5.75.


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The overall findings will be difficult to swallow for many punters – as they come at a time when the price of alcoholic drinks is at an all-time high.

The average price of a bottle of red wine has increased by 8% in the last year, while the average cost of a pint of lager is up 5.6%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Legally, the frothy head on a pint of beer is included in the measure.

The CTSI’s survey found 35% of the public felt the head should not be included in the pint measure and 23% thought it should.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) maintains the pint measure should not include the head and consumers should have a right to a 100% liquid pint.

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CTSI chief executive John Herriman said: “While this is a snapshot, it is the first time that we have been able to build a national picture of how widespread short-measuring of alcoholic drinks are, and the potential detriment to the average consumer of around £115 every year suggests there is the need for more comprehensive research to better understand the impact of short measures, not just for alcoholic drinks but across a broader spectrum of consumer goods.

“We are calling on the hospitality sector to ensure that consumers get value for money by making sure they are correctly measuring the drinks they are serving to customers in the nation’s pubs and bars and for further research in this area.”

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