Health Canada proposes restrictions on sugary-alcoholic drinks after teen death
The federal government wants to clamp down on the rise of sugary, pre-mixed alcoholic drinks after research suggests the products are creating a public health risk among young people.
Health Canada said it is concerned with the dangers of these flavoured drinks that are high in alcohol and sold in large, single-serve cans.
The department wants to amend Food and Drug Regulations to reduce the amount of alcohol in this type of drink from the equivalent of four servings of alcohol per can.
The amount of alcohol in containers under one litre will be limited to no more than 1.5 servings.
The move comes after Athena Gervais, a 14-year-old Quebec girl, died in March after reportedly drinking FCKD UP, which contained 11.9 per cent alcohol. That’s equivalent to four standard drinks in a single 568-millilitre can for less than $4. The company that manufactured the drink ceased its production following her death.
The proposed regulatory changes would restrict the alcohol content in these beverages to 25.6 ml of alcohol when they are packaged in containers of 1,000 mL or less. But some advocates say the proposed changes don’t go far enough.
Educ'alcool, a lobby group that promotes responsible drinking, says it should be one can, one drink.
“We don’t deny that it’s better to limit to 1.5, rather than four, as it is the case now,” said Hubert Sacy from Educ'alcool.
“But it’s a very small step, and it’s insufficient and disappointing because we can do better.”
Health Canada said the taste of alcohol is often masked by a highly-sweetened flavour, which can lead to unintentional overconsumption, alcohol poisoning or death.
"I am deeply concerned by the increasing availability and appeal of these beverages that are high in alcohol, and their appeal to youth,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a press release.
“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."
Health Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines recommend two standard drinks per day for women and three for men.
"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,” Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada said in a press release.
“We need to take action to prevent problematic alcohol use from impacting youth and young adults. These regulations are a step in that direction."
Health Canada proposes that under new regulations these type of drinks should be sold in the following formats: 7.2% alc/vol in a 355 mL container; 5.4% alc/vol in a 473 mL container; 4.5% alc/vol in a 568 mL container or 3.6% alc/vol in a 710 mL container.
A public consultation will be held from Dec. 22 to Feb. 5, with the proposed amendments published in the Canada Gazette.
The changes could come into effect in the spring.
With files from The Canadian Press