Health Canada Restricts Alcohol Content of Flavored Purified Beverages

Flavored purified alcoholic beverages are a new and growing class of beverages in Canada that pose an increasing public health risk, especially to younger Canadians, Health Canada reports.

Health Canada, via regulations published May 29, has restricted the amount of alcohol that can be included in flavored purified alcoholic beverages. These are a new and growing class of beverages in Canada that pose an increasing public health risk, especially to younger Canadians, according to the agency.

Their alcohol content can equal four standard alcoholic drinks in a single-serve container, and they are often highly sweetened, "which makes it very easy to unintentionally consume large amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time, potentially leading to serious alcohol-related harms," the agency reported.

Up to now, an adult weighing 180 pounds would find himself or herself over the legal limit for impaired driving by consuming a single container of flavored purified alcohol in one hour.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada's minister of Health, announced the new regulations, which take effective immediately. Under the new regulations, single-serve flavored purified alcoholic beverages are now limited to 25.6 mL of alcohol (representing 1.5 standard drinks) when they are packaged in containers of a volume of 1,000 mL or less. Many other single-serve alcoholic beverages on the market, such as coolers and traditional beer, are sold in formats that contain between 1.0 and 1.5 standard alcoholic drinks. The 1.5 standard drink limit is below the daily recommended limit for women, and consuming two such containers is still within the recommended limit for special occasions, which is three drinks. Health Canada reported that this is consistent with Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, which recommend consumption of no more than two standard drinks per day for women and no more than three standard drinks per day for men.

"In Canada, single-serve flavored purified alcoholic beverages have been implicated in numerous hospitalizations and at least two deaths in the past year and a half. This is a tragedy. Health Canada has taken action to help protect Canadians—particularly youth—from unintentional overconsumption of alcohol, because excessive drinking can lead to alcohol-related harms, including acute alcohol poisoning and death," Taylor said.

"I remain very concerned about the prevalence of problematic alcohol use, especially among Canadian youth. These regulations restricting alcohol content in single-serve flavored purified alcoholic beverages can help to reduce the potential health harms and keep youth safe," said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada.

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