UK brewer fights zero alcohol laws

Steve Magnall, CEO at St Peter's Brewery, has called for support from alcohol awareness groups to stop new alcohol-free labelling plans, which could see drinks containing 0.5% abv labelled as zero alcohol.

On 13 December 2018, The Food Labelling Regulations (FLR), which controls how low alcohol drinks (1.2% abv or less) should be described, will expire.

In response, the Department of Health and Social Care has opened a public consultation on the descriptors used to refer to low alcohol products to further inform consumers.

The British government has proposed that, rather than legislate, any future low-alcohol descriptors could be introduced through guidance which would result “in a more flexible and less burdensome approach”.

However, Magnall of St Peter's Brewery feels that the discussions are centered around personal gain rather than public health interest.

“This is a problem, both ethically and for health. Describing a drink that contains 0.5% alcohol as zero alcohol is misleading and, frankly, downright dangerous,” said Magnall.

“I've worked with alcohol awareness charities in the past and seen the damage alcohol can do. For those who can't drink for personal reasons, or indeed health reasons, the possibility of consuming a drink that falsely claims it contains zero alcohol; especially one that is developed specifically as an alcohol-free version of beer or wine, could have terrible implications for those who are vulnerable.”

Lee Ball, the Salvation Army's addiction services officer, added: “Across the UK we support thousands of people living with issues related to addiction.

“No matter the percentage of alcohol content within a drink, misinformation on labels has the potential for serious consequences for people like the men and women we support, who are fighting addictions.”

The Public Consultation into Low and No Alcohol Drinks Labelling will close on 10 May, 2018.