Alcohol content to be restricted in single-serving sugary drinks

Health Canada is taking steps to restrict the amount of alcohol allowed in sugary, high-alcohol premixed drinks. According to the federal agency, single-serve products create a public health risk, which is increased for youth.

The proposed regulations would limit the amount of alcohol contained in single-use beverages to 1.5 servings per can (4.5% alcohol by volume). In contrast, the beverages in question currently contain the equivalent of four servings of alcohol (11.9% alcohol by volume).

In an interview with reporters, Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said: “Research also suggests that these products are playing a role in hospitalizations related to alcohol among youth.”
The new amendments would not apply to alcohol-containing beverages sold in glass bottles of 750 millilitres or more, since these drinks are considered to contain several portions. According to Health Canada, “As a result, consumers are likely to identify these formats as containing multiple servings of alcohol.”

This move on behalf of Health Canada comes following the death of the Quebec teenager, Athena Gervais, last March. The 14-year-old girl was found dead in a creek after allegedly consuming one or more cans of a drink called FCKD UP, which contains 11.9% alcohol by volume, during her school lunch break. The drink was previously sold in cans in convenience stores for 4$, and is no longer produced by the company which manufactured it. However, other similar beverages are still on the market in the province.

In March 2018, Quebec had already moved to ban the sale of premixed malt-based beverages containing more than 7% alcohol from anywhere other than the provincial liquor stores.

In his interview with CBC News, Athena’s father, Alain Gervais, said he and the rest of Athena’s family are happy with how quickly the federal government acted on the issue, and how the proposed amendments address the amount of alcohol and the format in which it is sold.

However, according to the Quebec Association for Public Health (ASPQ), the proposed amendments represent a step in the right direction, but do not address the problem completely.

ASPQ substance abuse specialist Émilie Dansereau-Trahan says that instead of the standard 1.5 standard drink portions contained in a single-use beverage, it should only be one portion.

The proposed changes to the Food and Drug Regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette on Saturday and could be in effect by the spring of 2019.

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