UK government proposes new labelling on alcoholic drinks

UK government proposes new labelling on alcoholic drinks

The UK Government has proposed that changes be made to labelling guidance for no-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks, in a bid to encourage the purchase of such items.

If implemented, drinks containing less than 0.5% alcohol by volume could soon be labelled as alcohol free in the UK, as is the case in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany. Currently in the UK, the threshold is 0.05%.

It’s believed the move will help UK adults to make healthier choices and will also support the businesses that make these no/low-alcohol alternatives.

The UK Government also wants to make no/low-alcohol drinks more readily available and popular, with advertising and initiatives to encourage individuals to buy alcohol-free drinks,

Alcohol consumption in the UK

A recent NHS survey found that 20% of adults in England drink above the recommended weekly limit of 14 units, while a Drink Aware survey showed that almost 50% of people aged 16+ reported drinking alcohol at least once a week.

According to figures shared by Alcohol Change UK, alcohol is estimated to cost UK society more than £27 billion each year, including costs linked to health, crime and lost productivity.

Public Health England warns people of drinking excessively and says that it can significantly increase the risk of ill health, harm, a poor quality of life, and even death.

As a result of this, government organisations and health groups are searching for ways they can support individuals looking to control or lower their alcohol consumption.

What are the benefits of choosing alcohol-free alternatives?

As an alcohol testing laboratory, with over 15 years’ experience providing alcohol testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector, we are very familiar with the impact that alcohol can have on the body.

How alcohol affects your body can vary depending on your age, weight, metabolism, and the type of alcohol you have been drinking i.e., beer, wine, or spirits.

When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream, and more than 90% of it is broken down by the liver. As the alcohol travels to different parts of the body, including the brain, it begins to affect your basic functions including breathing, movement, and temperature control.

Short-term effects of alcohol include slurred speed, drowsiness, slower reaction times and impaired memory. However, people who drink for several hours may experience other effects including paranoia, increased aggression, and mood swings. Alcohol can also lower your inhibitions, leading to increased risk-taking.

Long-term chronic and excessive alcohol consumption over many years has been linked to several serious health complications including alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), strokes, and certain types of cancer.

Studies have shown that there are many health benefits associated with taking a break from alcohol and drinking alcohol-free drinks. Macmillan Cancer Support outlines these as having a clearer head, more energy, better sleep, healthy weight loss, and a sense of achievement. You may even begin to see positive changes in as little as one week as the brain heals itself and chemical levels regulate.

Research published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that just one alcohol-free month can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes and reduce levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

Your skin will also reap the benefits of not drinking. It will appear brighter, more youthful and plumped, with fewer breakouts.

However, it is important to note that the benefits of reducing your alcohol intake can vary significantly, depending on an individual’s level of alcohol dependency.

How can I reduce my alcohol intake?

The NHS recommends that men and women consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

This is considered ‘low risk’ drinking. If you want to gain a better understanding of how much you are drinking, and how you might be able to reduce your intake, it’s important to understand the number of units in different alcoholic drinks.

The NHS provides this handy guide to how many units are in some of the UK’s favourite alcoholic drinks, for you to refer to. Other helpful ways to reduce your alcohol intake, according to resources provided by Alcohol Change UK, include:

  • Teaming up with a friend to take a break from drinking
  • Finding alcohol-free ways to enjoy yourself such as taking up a new hobby
  • Keeping track of your drinking, making a note of how much you drink throughout the week, and setting goals for yourself
  • Recognising situations where you tend to drink more and making alternative arrangements when you want to cut down your alcohol consumption

Please be aware that if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, reducing your alcohol intake without medical advice might not be right for you.

For this reason, it is recommended that you speak to your GP, who will be able provide advice on safely reducing your alcohol intake.

Where can I get an alcohol test?

As an accredited alcohol testing laboratory, we are well placed to support you with your alcohol testing needs, whether you have concerns about a loved one misusing alcohol, and want a test for peace of mind, or you are a member of the public who requires a legal alcohol test for official matters.

We also offer alcohol testing for legal professionals and social workers, and employers looking to discourage alcohol abuse in the workplace.

Our UKAS-accredited laboratory is fully equipped to test a variety of samples for the presence of alcohol including blood, hair, and nails. We also offer point-of-care breath tests, as well as alcohol monitoring using SCRAM CAM®.

For more information, contact our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email

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