We covered alcohol free and low alcohol drinks previously, but there’s been a lot of developments, so it’s worth revisiting.
There’s huge interest in the sector now. Awareness of alcohol harm is growing, so the alcohol industry see it as one of the future growth sectors. Irish sales are now up to €10 million. Still tiny as part of the overall market, but going in the right direction and new drinks are being developed all the time.
What is low alcohol?
It’s actually very confusing as different labelling regulations apply in different countries. In most EU countries, drinks containing up to 0.5% alcohol are classified as “alcohol free”
While this may seem strange, when you know ripe fruit such as bananas have a trace of alcohol it makes more sense.
Drinks that contain no alcohol at all, are called “non-alcoholic” drinks.
England labels low alcohol drinks as more than 0.5% alcohol but no more than 1.2%
What are the Irish regulations?
Strangely we could not find any. You can see the empty screen on alcohol from the Food Safety Authority website below.
Plenty of guidelines though protecting the alcohol industry, You can see below details of laws protecting brewers from competition, by controlling what brewers can put on labels.
When we got onto the Food Safety Authority, they stated alcohol labelling for consumers, was a matter for the Department of Health. We could not find any guidelines to protect consumers there either.
No regulations to protect our health!
According to Alcohol Action Ireland there is no labelling provisions for alcoholic beverages above 1.2% apart from the fact these products must display volume, ABV, as well as producer matters such as name and country of origin.
Proposals for labelling alcohol are currently being discussed at EU level and you can see Alcohol Action Ireland’s submission here. Again, alcohol industry lobbying has slowed this whole process down.
Currently washing machine powder has more warning labels than alcohol!
So a product that kills 3 people a day has no warning labels! It shows once again, how so many people end up drinking too much. Alcohol harm is not being given the attention it deserves.
Can low alcohol drinks help manage drinking?
As Lucy says there are very mixed views on this. I have n’t found any reliable scientific research so far but views seem to fall into two camps.
People who have past experience of drinking too much or a physical dependence on alcohol are probably better avoiding low alcohol drinks as it creates too much temptation to drink again. This camp think even trifles with sherry in them should not be eaten.
The other group think people without a physical dependence on alcohol can use low alcohol drinks as a way to drink less.
Personally, I think it’s more complex than this.
What’s right for you?
As regular readers will know we’re big fans of understanding what the right approach is for each person. So whether low alcohol drinks will work for you will depend on your individual health, lifestyle, work, family and social factors. Your own motivation and enthusiasm for change are also really important.
The important thing is to get started. Whether cutting out all drinks with alcohol or drinking low alcohol drinks is right is a decision only you can make.
In a future post we’ll look at some of the more popular alcohol free drinks from wine to beer.
If you found this post interesting, you might find Lucy’s views here on whether not drinking at all or drinking less useful