OTTAWA – Health Canada is concerned with the risks of a new and growing class of drinks: flavoured purified alcoholic beverages that are high in alcohol and sold in large, single-serve containers. Research suggests that these products are creating a public health risk, especially for youth, and are associated with hospitalizations related to unintentional overconsumption or excessive drinking of alcohol among youth.
Today, Health Canada has introduced proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations to significantly reduce the amount of alcohol in single-serve containers of flavoured purified beverages that are high in alcohol. These beverages can contain as many as four standard drinks per container without the taste of alcohol, as the alcohol base is purified, flavoured and often highly sweetened. The regulations would help protect Canadians—particularly youth—from unintentional overconsumption or excessive drinking, which could lead to alcohol-related harms, including acute alcohol poisoning and death.
The proposed regulatory changes would restrict the alcohol content in these beverages to 1.5 standard drinks (25.6 ml of alcohol) when they are packaged in containers of 1000 mL or less. This includes both non-resealable and re-sealable containers. Glass containers with a volume of 750 mL or higher will be exempt from the regulations as this format is typically for multi-serving products.
Available data, research studies and reports related to these products point to a growing public health risk. To minimize the risk to Canadians, Health Canada has proposed these draft regulations to limit the amount of alcohol in this type of beverage to amounts that are more in line with Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. The proposed regulations reflect comments received in response to the Notice of Intent, a report from the Standing Committee on Health, and feedback from stakeholders, provinces and territories.
Canadians have from December 22, 2018 until February 5, 2019, to provide feedback on the proposal.
“I am deeply concerned by the increasing availability and appeal of these beverages that are high in alcohol, and their appeal to youth. The new proposed regulations mark an important step in helping us ensure the safety of young Canadians. I encourage Canadians to review the proposed changes and to share their feedback.”
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health
“A quarter of youth in Canada under the legal drinking age use alcohol excessively, which can lead to learning and memory problems, car accidents, chronic diseases and violence. We need to take action to prevent problematic alcohol use from impacting youth and young adults. These regulations are a step in that direction.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
- For a young person weighing 100 lbs, consuming a single flavoured purified alcoholic beverage containing four standard drinks (e.g. 11.9% alc./vol. sold in a 568 mL container) in under an hour could result in severe intoxication, with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.15%, about twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. If this same person consumed two in under an hour, it would result in a blood alcohol content greater than 0.3%, a level associated with hospitalization.
- Under the new regulations, a flavoured purified alcoholic beverage containing 1.5 standard drinks of alcohol could have the following formats:
- contain 7.2% alc/vol if sold in a 355 mL container;
- contain 5.4% alc/vol if sold in a 473 mL container;
- contain 4.5% alc/vol if sold in a 568 mL container; or
- contain 3.6% alc/vol if sold in a 710 mL container.
- Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than 2 standard drinks per day for women and no more than 3 standard drinks per day for men. These are designed to reduce long-term alcohol related health risks.
Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines