Dutch experts slam alcohol-free labelling as misleading

Dutch experts slam alcohol-free labelling as misleading

Not all alcohol free drinks in the Netherlands are completely alcohol free according to small print on their packages, say many experts. Now, nutritional specialists are calling for change as they claim that the "alcohol-free" branding is often misleading. 

Not all drinks labelled alcohol-free contain no alcohol

Often, drinks containing only very small amounts of alcohol in the Netherlands are still labelled as alcohol-free. This can create confusion, as many people read the alcohol-free label on the front and miss the smaller print which states that the drinks contain a small amount of alcohol. 

In the Netherlands, beer can be branded as alcohol-free if it contains up to 0,1 percent alcohol, while for wine this is 0,5 percent. With volumes between 0,1 and 1,2 percent, drinks can be called low-alcohol.

For this reason, food experts believe that labelling practices in the Netherlands are misleading. "It is very annoying, especially for people who really don't want to drink alcohol. You make a certain suggestion and it is not correct, that is confusing,” says Anne Lutgerink of the Nutrition Centre. 

Trade associations do not agree that beer marketing is misleading

Trade associations disagree with Lutgerink’s notion that the current advertising rules allow alcohol-free branding to be “misleading”, but they do understand that it can be confusing. "Everything is allowed and the brewers adhere to the rules, but it is unclear for the consumer," acknowledges chairman Jos Oostendorp of Craft, a trade association of 200 small beer breweries. "There are people who really don't want to drink a drop because they are allergic to alcohol or for other reasons. Everyone has an interest in knowing what is in it."

Director Meint Waterlander of Nederlandse Brouwers, an association representing thirteen breweries, agrees. "It would be good for the consumer if there was more unity in the labels."

In response to a request by Dutch broadcaster NOS, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has asked the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to look at terms such as “non-alcoholic” and “alcohol-free” on Dutch products. The NVWA will assess whether the labels are misleading.

Thumb image credit: defotoberg /

Emily Proctor


Emily Proctor

Emily grew up in the UK before moving abroad to study International Relations and Chinese. She then obtained a Master's degree in International Security and gained an interest in journalism....

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