Club Soda has challenged the Minister to drink five UK-brewed 0.5% beers and then drive home - legally. However, it has also warned him to pick a route with a service station, as he is he likely to need to stop to use the toilet on the way!
Submitting its evidence to the consultation on low and no-alcohol descriptors, Club Soda claimed that:
- 0.5% ABV drinks do not lead to intoxication, are safe for drivers, and cause no harm to pregnant women and their babies
- The UK is the only country in the world that labels 0.5% drinks as “low alcohol”. But 0.5% beers produced outside the UK can be sold here as “alcohol free”, which puts many UK brewers at a disadvantage
- Many foodstuffs and soft drinks contain similar trace amounts of alcohol, but are not required to put this information on their labels
- Consumers are confused by the labelling, but once given the right information are likely to change their perceptions of 0.5% adult drinks
- Denmark changed its “alcohol free” labelling limit from 0.1% to 0.5% in 2014, and in the following three years the sales of alcohol-free beer increased threefold
Club Soda hopes its response to the consultation will mean the wave of new alcohol-free drinks made in the UK, including beers, ciders, shandies and distilled spirits, can be labelled the same way as drinks imported from the rest of the world.
Supporting pubs and consumers
It believes this clarity will help consumers looking to reduce their alcohol, sugar and calorie intake, and will support pubs and restaurants improve their offering to customers who are looking to drink less and be more healthy.
Club Soda co-founder Laura Willoughby said: “This should be a no-brainer for the Government. To have complicated rules just for drinks aimed at adults and produced in the UK but that do not apply to anything else you put in your mouth is bizarre. The 0.5% drinks are a healthier alternative, helping people reduce the amount of sugar and alcohol they drink - they are just cutting off their nose to spite their face if they keep the rules the same.”
Fellow Club Soda co-founder Dr Jussi Tolvi, who undertook the research for Club Soda, added: “From our surveying of consumers the confusion is obvious. But once you let people know the facts about the trace amounts of alcohol in everyday foods, and that having 0.5% drinks really isn’t the same as drinking alcohol, people’s perceptions and willingness to try alcohol-free products increases.
“From a behaviour change and public health point of view, this would be an easy and quick win for the Government.”
Existing legislation 'functionally inappropriate'
Earlier this month, current legislation around the labelling of low and no-alcohol products was described as “functionally inappropriate” by one of the founders of the UK’s newest low alcohol beer brand.
Speaking to The Morning Advertiser, Chris Hannaway of Infinite Session called for UK legislation to be moved in line with European rules on the labelling of 0.5% ABV products.
Under current UK rules, only beers of 0.05% ABV can be labelled as ‘alcohol free’, while products with 0.5% ABV and less should be called ‘de-alcoholised’, despite the fact that many of these products have been formulated to that strength and do not have anything removed from them.