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Call for greater clarity on low and no alcohol labelling reaches House of Commons

Published:  07 March, 2018

MPs are gathering in the House of Commons today to tackle the “confusing” labelling of low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks.

Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Alcohol Harm, the meeting seeks to broach the subject of low alcohol and alcohol-free labels, with APPG calling for clearer regulation around the labelling of ‘alcohol-free’, ‘low alcohol’, ‘dealcoholised’ and ‘non-alcoholic’ – all of which currently have different legal definitions.

Some products also use the term ‘light’ or ‘lite’ to mean low alcohol, where others use it to refer to calories.

With more producers entering this growing category, Alcohol Research UK and Club Soda – who are also attending the meeting - carried out research which they say shows that labelling continues to remain unclear to the majority of an increasingly mindful drinking public.

According to the research carried out in February, 56% of respondents expected ‘low-alcohol’ beer to contain up to 0.5% alcohol, whereas current regulation states that ‘low alcohol’ products can contain up to 1.2% alcohol.

Alcohol alternatives continue to rise in popularity.

UK sales of low alcohol and alcohol-free beers increased by 17% in 2017 according to Nielsen; and during Dry January 2018 Tesco reported that demand for low alcohol beer, wine and spirits increased by more than 100% compared to January 2017.

Fiona Bruce MP, chair of the APPG on Alcohol Harm, said: “An increasing number of us are choosing to drink low alcohol and alcohol-free alternatives. But labelling is lagging behind consumer demand. The Department of Health must give us common-sense regulations around the labelling of alcohol alternative drinks, so that we can make informed choices about our health.”

Laura Willoughby MBE, co-founder of Club Soda UK, said the current labelling of alcohol-free drinks was “next to useless”, pointing to the current disparity between UK bottlers and those outside the UK who are able to follow different labelling regulations, further confusing consumers.

She said: “Non-UK producers are allowed to use terms that UK producers can’t use for the same drink. There are foods on the supermarket shelf with more alcohol than a 0.5% ABV beer. Club Soda and our members are clear: 0.5% and below should be called alcohol-free.”