There are many reasons people choose to go alcohol-free. For some of them being alcohol-free is a necessity, due to mental and physical health conditions, pregnancy, their age or their work and leisure time activities. In fact, most people don’t want to consume alcohol most of the time. Therefore, it is important that alcohol content in products is clearly labeled so that people who do not want to consume alcohol don’t accidentally do so.
According to the Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre a variety of products, such as ready-made cakes, desserts and sweets, ready-made soups, sauces and salad dressings, contain alcohol. And this alcohol content is not always included in the labeling. For example, if alcohol is used only as a carrier to release flavors it does not need to be mentioned under ingredients on the label.
Even in beverages, alcohol content labeling is only required at 1.2% alcohol volume. That practically means “alcohol-free” does not always mean completely zero alcohol.
But the labeling problem is bigger yet. Even when alcohol is included in labeling of products it is labeled in various names such as ethanol or ethyl alcohol.
Only a few manufacturers label the alcohol content on the display side of the food, for example with a pictogram,” said Silke Vollbrecht, consumer consultant for food and nutrition at the Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre, as per Nau.ch.Silke Vollbrecht, consumer consultant, food and nutrition, Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre
Therefore, the Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre is calling for clear mandatory labeling on the display side of the packaging of products.
A clear indication of the alcohol content on the display side is still not mandatory,” says Ms. Vollbrecht, as per Nau.ch.
This has to change.”Silke Vollbrecht, consumer consultant, food and nutrition, Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre
Unexpected but ubiquitous presence of alcohol
The Brandenburg Consumer Protection Centre has compiled examples of products in which alcohol is hidden. Manufacturers often only add alcohol to the list of ingredients – usually hidden on the back of the packaging and difficult to read.
Alcohol labeling is not legally required for all foods in Germany.
But alcohol can be ubiquitous in a wide range of products. Even products that children like to eat can also contain alcohol.
For example, alcohol is also used in foods such as instant soups, crème tarts or croissants. Instead of a clearly visible front-of-pack label, however, usually only the list of ingredients on the back provides information.
Although the inadequate labeling of alcohol content has long been known and has often been criticized, so far neither politicians nor manufacturers have improved the labeling.
That is why labeling on the face of the product – for example with a pictogram would be more consumer-friendly.
Hidden alcohol is a public health concern
There are many reasons people want to or are required to stay alcohol-free. For example pregnant women should not consume alcohol, not even in small amounts to protect the unborn child.
If children ingest small amounts of alcohol through food, they get used to the taste at an early stage. The inhibition threshold to try alcohol or alcopops can decrease through the regular consumption of alcoholic foods. Early alcohol initiation in children is a serious predictor of later alcohol use problems.
For people living in recovery from alcohol use problems even small amounts of alcohol can lead to relapse – and the threshold of 1.2% of alcohol content under which producers do not need to declare alcohol content at all, is not even a “small amount” of alcohol in a product.
Some consumers live free from alcohol for religious reasons.
And many other people who do not want to consume alcohol, such cancer survivors, people with cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, or people who want to enjoy an alcohol-free life for well-being reasons depend on clear and easily understandable labeling.