The Department of Health has ruled there will be no changes to the descriptors for low and no alcohol products.

The Portman Group has expressed disappointment over this ruling, which follows a consultation conducted by the Department of Health earlier this year. The current regulations for labelling are due to expire next month. 

John Timothy, the Portman Group’s chief executive, said: “We are disappointed by this outcome as it is a huge missed opportunity. Clarity and consistency on descriptors would have brought the UK into line with the rest of Europe, creating a level playing field for our drinks producers as well as giving consumers greater clarity around what they are buying.

“Producers continue to invest heavily in the development of new and exciting low and no products but this risks being undermined by an insistence on retaining outdated and confusing product descriptors.”

In May The Portman Group urged the Government to simplify the terms used to describe low and no-alcohol beverages and provide “much needed clarity and consistency”.

Currently there are four descriptors that highlight products containing low or no alcohol and, with the current labeling laws due to expire at the end of this year, the Government decided to launch a consultation to consider if the descriptors still resonate with consumers and the trade.

Within its list of recommendations, it suggested:

  • Raising the ‘alcohol-free’ threshold to 0.5% abv, from where it currently stands at 0.05% abv to bring the UK in line with other European countries.
  • Introducing a minimum strength of above 0.5% abv to the category of low alcohol to go up to and include 1.2% abv.
  • Removing the term ‘de-alcoholised’ which it said was “confusing” for consumers
  • The term ‘non-alcoholic’ is currently used to describe communion or sacramental wine. The Portman Group said ‘alcohol-free’ and ‘non-alcoholic’ could be used interchangeably to describe products of 0.5% abv or less, which would best reflect consumer perceptions