Does Alcohol Free Beer Contain Alcohol?

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Alcohol-free beer can contain small amounts of alcohol, however such small amounts have no affect on a healthy body. At under 0.5% ABV, the body will metabolise this level of alcohol quicker than it can be drunk. It is not uncommon to find small amounts of naturally occurring alcohol in fruits, juices, and other food products we consume on a daily basis. 

Yet despite the answer being a relatively simple one, we get asked this question a lot. Be it for a health-kick, pregnancy, or addiction issues a lot of us are feeling bit unsure and wondering: Does alcohol free beer actually contain alcohol?

What constitutes alcohol free beer can be confusing for many consumers, primarily because of the labelling in the UK. Any product labelled between 0.0% ABV and 0.5% ABV is essentially alcohol free, however, UK legislation enforces a complicated labelling system where they insist on two definitions, alcohol-free or dealcoholised (we’ll get in to that later).

Consumers in continental Europe, where alcohol free beer consumption can be as high 25% of the overall beer consumption market, are used to seeing a variety of alcohol free products that are 0.5% ABV or under (like FitBeer).

UK labelling requirements, however, are more confusing. They stipulate that alcohol-free products should contain no more than 0.05% ABV. Products over 0.05% ABV but less than 0.5 ABV should be labelled as dealcoholised. The unanswered question is, what is the distinction between dealcoholised and alcohol-free? They sound like the same thing!

It’s confusing I know. Web resource www.alcoholfree.co.uk puts it this way.

“Anything that can ferment produces alcohol. Some orange and tomato juices are above the UK alcohol free limit of 0.05% ABV. An overripe banana can contain 1% ABV (100% more alcohol than FitBeer)”.

It’s about time that the UK, caught up with the sensible legislation from the EU, where ALL products containing less than 0.5% ABV are regarded as alcohol-free and the dealcoholised distinction becomes a moot point. In other words, if you can drink a banana smoothie without getting drunk, or taking in toxins that your body can’t metabolise naturally, you can drink an alcohol-free beer. 

Taking in consideration www.alcoholfree.co.uk’s  more relatable understanding of alcohol content and the fact that the EU regards products under 0.5% ABV as alcohol free, other questions arise like…

'Can pregnant women drink alcohol free beer?’. NHS website Start For Lifesay that drinking alcohol free beer is a safe alternative. Many FitBeer drinkers are expectant mothers.In fact FitBeer is good for pregnant women because it's high in folic acid, which is a vitamin that helps stimulate the production of milk (please however use your common sense and if you’re worried about any specific illnesses, consult your doctor).

Another question is, 'Can recovering alcoholics drink alcohol free beer safely?’ The answer to that depends on the strength of the individual’s recovery. The idea for creating FitBeer came from recovered alcoholic and investment banker, Jim Kean, after seeing the lack of quality in the market. He regularly drinks alcohol free beer.

However, not all recovering alcoholics are like Jim. There is a contingent in the recovery community that advise against drinking alcohol free products. Our advice is to use your discretion. Only you will know how strong you are.

Hopefully we’ve cleared up a few issues. The main one being that if a beer has 0.5% ABV or less, it has no more alcohol than a banana smoothie.

I’ll be answering more questions about this subject in future posts.

Becky Kean