Do Dutch Brewers Seek Standardized Regulations for Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Dutch Brewers Advocate for Harmonized European Regulations to Clarify “Alcohol-Free” Beer Standards

Dutch brewers are pushing for standardized regulations across Europe to address the ambiguity surrounding the term “alcohol-free” concerning beers with minimal alcohol content.

In the Netherlands, beverages labeled as “alcohol-free” can contain as much as 0.1% alcohol, while alcohol-free wine can contain up to 0.5%. Products with alcohol content up to 1.2% are categorized as “alcohol arm” or alcohol-poor. However, in neighboring European countries such as Belgium and Germany, beer with 0.5% alcohol volume is considered alcohol-free, whereas in Spain and Italy, the threshold extends to 1% and 1.2% respectively.

This disparity in regulations has led to confusion, especially as these products are sold across borders. Dutch brewers argue that supermarkets selling beer labeled as “alcohol-free” with over 1% alcohol content create unfair competition.

Under European regulations, beverages containing up to 0.5% alcohol can be labeled as “non-alcoholic.” Some Dutch brewers resort to using the English term to comply with regulations, as they are not permitted to use the “alcohol-free” designation.

Critics, including Anne Lutgerink from the healthy eating institute Voedingscentrum, argue that such labeling is misleading, particularly for consumers who prefer to avoid alcohol entirely. The inconsistency in terminology adds to the confusion, making it challenging for consumers to make informed choices.

While Dutch brewers acknowledge the confusion stemming from varying regulations across Europe, they maintain that they adhere to the existing rules. Jos Oostendorp, chairman of Craft, which represents 200 small breweries, emphasizes the importance of clarity for consumers. Efforts are underway to engage with European counterparts to establish a more cohesive labeling system. However, resistance from German brewers has hindered progress thus far, though there remains optimism for eventual consensus.

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has pledged to investigate the use of the English term “non-alcoholic” on Dutch beer labels to assess its potential for misleading consumers.

In light of these challenges, a spokesperson from the health ministry advises consumers to scrutinize labels for precise alcohol content or opt for beverages labeled as “0.0” to ensure complete abstinence from alcohol.

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