The Department of Health and Social Care has published its formal response to the consultation on low alcohol product labelling, confirming a previously widely-reported decision that there will be no changes to the descriptors for low and no alcohol products.
Commenting on the decision, Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:
“Confirmation of this decision is bitterly disappointing. The Department of Health has missed this opportunity to give consumers greater clarity when it comes to the labelling of low alcohol beers.
“Changing the current definition of ‘alcohol free’ beer from 0.05% ABV to 0.5% ABV – as we suggested during the consultation process – would have brought the UK in line with the rest of Europe and other global markets. This creates the perverse situation whereby beers at 0.5% ABV produced in Europe can be sold in the UK as “alcohol free”, but British brewers brewing at the same strength must label their beer differently. This is discrimination and will create confusion for consumers.
“Whilst we have already seen significant growth in the low alcohol beer sector, the Government has failed to implement changes that would enable Britain’s brewers to further innovate and promote lower strength drinks to stimulate this growth further.
“A decision by the Australian Government to introduce tax reductions for ‘lighter’ beer has already led to growth of such beers to occupy 25% of the market there. Sadly then, this decision by the UK Government represents a missed opportunity to provide a similar incentive here and gives no encouragement to those seeking to moderate their alcohol consumption.
“There is plenty of evidence to show that moderate drinking brings health benefits, and beer, which is typically a low strength form of alcohol, is a great way to enjoy a well-earned drink whilst supporting your local pub.”