St Peter’s Brewery’s Without, a no-alcohol beer
St Peter’s Brewery and the Salvation Army is issuing a stark warning to the Government after The Portman Group concluded that there were no health repercussions for consumers in labelling drinks containing 0.5% alcohol as ‘zero’ alcohol.
Among other labelling suggestions, The Portman Group recommends raising the ‘alcohol free’ threshold to 0.5% ABV from where it currently sits at 0.05% ABV, bringing the UK into line with other European countries.
“We are shocked that The Portman Group, which has a social responsibility to consumers, is advising the government to label drinks with 0.5% alcohol as alcohol-free. This is misleading, dangerous and very worrying,” said Steve Magnall, chief executive at St Peter’s Brewery, who has worked with alcohol-addiction charities in the past.
“Just because they have a law in Europe doesn’t mean we should follow it. For example, the Spanish law on drink-driving alcohol limits is lower than the UK — should we follow that as well? The Netherlands have cannabis in coffee shops, again, should we follow suit?”
He added: “Regardless of how EU produce is labelled in the UK — as let’s face it, those rules are likely to change again after Brexit — we have an obligation to give the consumer the facts so they can make an informed choice on what they buy.
“We also recently carried out a trial where a 15-year-old was able to buy alcohol-free beer from a supermarket. Would this still be acceptable if it actually contained 0.5% alcohol but was labelled as zero?”
Lee Ball, the Salvation Army’s addiction services officer, agrees that the Portman Group response to the recent Public Consultation on no- and low-alcohol labelling is worrying and feels that any drinks labelled as low alcohol can cause issues for vulnerable individuals.
“Across the UK, we support thousands of people living with issues related to addiction. Often people come to us at their lowest ebb and often alcohol is the cause or the consequence of this. It is for this reason we are wholly opposed to drinks with lower alcoholic content being labelled as ‘zero’ or ‘low’ alcohol.”
He added: “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.
“Research has already proved that alcoholic drinks labels can be confusing for consumers, however using words like ‘zero’ or ‘low’ can also be misinterpreted as safer or less harmful and this completely undermines the difficult road to recovery that people who deal with alcohol addiction have to go on.
“The government and the drinks industry need to recognise and enforce clarity on drinks labels to empower consumers to take control, and enable them to make informed decisions.”
St Peter’s Brewery and the Salvation Army are now calling on the government to issue clarity to consumers with a labelling system that states the true ABVs of a drink.
Steve said: “We need clarity across the board, not misinformation, whether that’s with imported drinks, or those manufactured in the UK. Consumers have the right to know what they are buying and what it contains. It’s common sense.”