We all order alcohol-free beer from time to time these days. Although it is widely advertised, it is not always clear what "alcohol-free" or "0.0" means exactly. The Advertising Code Committee (ACC) explains why alcohol-free beer can still contain alcohol and gives a more detailed interpretation of '0.0'.
In July 2022, a complaint was submitted at the ACC against brewer Liefmans' claims "alcohol-free" and "0.0" on the label and website of its Liefmans Fruitesse 0.0 beer. Why? Both the use of '0.0' and 'alcohol-free' would be misleading. In fact, as was also stated on the Liefmans website at the time of the complaint, the fruit beer contains less than 0.05% alcohol. The beer is thus not completely alcohol-free.
It seems logical that the designation "alcohol-free" refers to beer that is completely free of alcohol. However, the Dutch Warenwetbesluit Gereserveerde aanduidingen and also the Reclamecode voor Alcoholvrij en Alcoholarm Bier (RvAAB) stipulate that this claim may be used for beers containing no more than 0.1% alcohol. Liefmans Fruitesse 0.0 contains 0.02% alcohol, so according to the law it can be called "alcohol-free".
But what about the claim "0.0"? There is no provision for this in the laws and regulations. It is undisputable that the average consumer who is confronted with '0.0 beer' will think of beer without any alcohol. Nevertheless, the ACC rules that Liefmans Fruitesse 0.0 is not misleading. How so? According to the ACC the low alcohol percentage of 0.02% is so minimal that it is completely negligible. Moreover, this percentage is the result of fermentation of natural fruit sugars in the beer bottle. This does not distinguish the beer from, say, a smoothie, which also contains a similar alcohol percentage due to fermentation of fruit. Finally, under the Food Information Regulation (FIC Regulation 1169/2011), it is not mandatory to place a warning on the product that it may nevertheless contain some degree of alcohol if the alcohol percentage rounded to one decimal place is 0.0.
The advertising of Liefmans Fruitesse 0.0 is therefore not misleading. If you really want to drink a beer without any degree of alcohol, make sure that you are well informed.
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