The Canadian government has dealt a blow to producers of single-serve beverages that are high in alcohol and sugar.
Health Canada on Thursday officially implemented new regulations limiting the amount of alcohol in purified, flavoured single-serve beverages. The regulation restricts drinks to 25.6 millilitres of alcohol when packaged in containers less than a litre.
Purification is a manufacturing process that strips the alcohol’s taste and aroma. It’s a new process in Canada, meaning Health Canada is regulating purified drinks for the first time.
The most famous brand affected by the regulations will be Four Loko, a beverage marketed towards young people. Four Loko currently has an alcohol-by-volume (ABV) content of 11.9 per cent, the equivalent of four servings of alcohol per 568 ml can. Health Canada’s new regulation slashes this amount to the equivalent of 1.5 servings of alcohol per can.
The government said in a statement these types of beverages pose a health risk because they are often sweetened to the point that they mask the taste of alcohol, leading to overconsumption.
Back in December, Health Canada announced a public consultation on high-ABV flavoured beverages in response to the death of Quebec teenager less than a month earlier. The 14-year-old was found dead after consuming a beverage called FCKD UP, which has since ceased production. Like Four Loko, FCKD UP contained 11.9 per cent ABV and was served in a 568 mL can.
The regulations come into effect immediately with no grace period. The Retail Council of Canada, which advocates for grocers, said in a statement it “would have preferred a somewhat broader consultation,” but that it supports “the public health rationale behind the government’s decision.”