The Food Labelling Regulations (FLR) 1996 set out rules for how low-alcohol drinks (those of 1.2% alcohol by volume, ABV, or less) may be described, which aim to protect the public and inform consumers.
With the regulations due to expire on 13 December 2018, the Government is consulting on how best to continue to communicate information to the public about low-alcohol drinks, so that adults can "make informed choices when they purchase drinks, including alcohol", it said.
The consultation, which was launched on Thursday 15 March, stated: "The sale of lower-strength drinks, as an option for consumers helps encourage responsible drinking.
"The Government also wants to use this consultation to hear views on whether we should introduce new descriptors for alcoholic drinks above 1.2% ABV to help consumers make an informed choice and to promote lower-strength drinks.
"The Government believes any future low-alcohol descriptors could be introduced through guidance rather than legislation."
Opportunity for change
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has welcomed the consultation, and stated it "should provide an opportunity to change the rules to help grow the lower-strength market and clarify labelling for consumers".
It also said the intention to use guidance on this issue, rather than the heavy hand of legislation is "very welcome".
The BBPA previously called for more flexibility to promote lower-strength or ‘lighter’ beers at or below 3.5% ABV. This should extend to labelling descriptors and advertising, which will help consumers make informed choices because current advertising regulations prevent brand owners from promoting lower-strength beers as such, it said.
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The consultation acknowledges that the sale of lower-strength products, as an option for consumers, helps encourage responsible drinking.
“BBPA members have responded to consumer demand for a greater range and choice of lower-strength beers, many with new flavours and ingredients. Investment in no and low-alcohol beers has drastically increased in recent years.
“Pubs are increasingly providing a growing selection of lower-strength alcoholic drinks. Greater clarity in advertising and marketing will allow the lower-strength market continue to grow while supporting pubs at the same time.”
The consultation closes on 10 May 2018.