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Canada proposes to take action on sugary, high-alcohol drinks

DBR Staff Writer Published 20 March 2018

Health Canada has proposed to restrict the alcohol content of single-serve highly sweetened alcoholic beverages in order to protect youth from the risks posed by the products.

The Government of Canada has concerns on the health risks of single-serve highly sweetened alcoholic beverages whose alcohol content is in the range of 7% to 12%.

The colourful packaging of the beverages, which are sold in large-volume, non-resealable containers, is aimed at attracting youth. 

Many of these products have high sugar or sweeteners and are claimed to contain as much alcohol as four glasses of wine.

Canada Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor has directed Health Canada to take immediate action in two areas to help reduce the risk the products can pose to the people.

Initially, Health Canada will introduce a proposal for consultation to amend the Food and Drug Regulations to restrict alcohol content in single-serve highly sweetened alcoholic beverages.

The proposal intends to reduce alcohol content by limiting the maximum size of the container or the alcohol content of the product.

The proposal would affect all high-alcohol beverages that are sold in non-resealable containers which exceed a certain sweetness threshold, including those that contain artificial sweeteners. Health Canada is seeking feedback from interested parties on the Notice of Intent by 3 May 2018.

Health Canada will then arrange a meeting in the coming weeks with provincial and territorial governments along with key industry stakeholders to discuss collective measures including advertising, marketing and labeling to reduce the risks that these products pose. The stakeholders are also asked to come forward with interim measures to reduce the risks.

The proposal is not aimed to capture liqueurs, dessert wines and other sweet alcoholic beverages sold in re-sealable containers.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said: "Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a top priority for our Government. I am deeply concerned by the increasing availability and appeal of single-serve highly sweetened, high-alcohol beverages and by the increasing number of youth admitted to hospital after drinking these products.

“Accordingly, I have instructed my Department to take all necessary action to address this issue, through both regulations and consultations with provinces and territories as well as stakeholders. It is my expectation that industry will also come forward with interim measures to help us ensure the safety of young Canadians."

Image: Canada Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor. Photo: Courtesy of Ginette Petitpas Taylor.