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Sweden's alcohol-free drink label 'misleading'

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Sweden's alcohol-free drink label 'misleading'
11:03 CET+01:00
Most of the alcohol-free drinks sold in Sweden's state-run liquor store monopoly Systembolaget actually contain alcohol, with experts calling the label “misleading” and a threat to recovering alcoholics.

From a total of 42 so-called “alcohol-free” drinks sold at Systembolaget, 25 varieties contain 0.5 percent alcohol, according to a report in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

This amount is enough to trigger a reaction from the brain's reward pathway, also known as the mesolimbic pathway, which can be a potential problem for ex-alcoholics, according to addiction expert Johan Franck.

“Even a little dose of alcohol can reactivate the brain's reward pathway, especially after a long period of abstinence from alcohol when the tolerance is probably lower,” he told the paper.

Another addiction specialist, Bitten Jonsson, stated that the label of “alcohol free” is “dangerous and misleading”.

“The intoxicant is very strong. If the disease is well developed, just the smallest amount [of alcohol] entering the body is enough. I have seen it happen too many times. How much heroin could an ex-heroin addict tolerate?”

According to Märta Kuylenstierna, head of the alcohol-free department of Systembolaget, the effects of such alcohol consumption can differ among the people who used to be dependent on alcohol.

“It seems to be individual, but to be safe we are careful to point out that even alcohol free products contain alcohol,” she said.

When asked why Systembolaget chooses to even have the label “alcohol-free”, Kuylenstierna responded:

“We've not come up with any better alternatives, and a half percent is considered negligible for car drivers and those who want to live healthily, for example.”

Furthermore, Kuylenstierna pointed out that according to EU regulations, the content of alcohol does not need to be declared when it is below 1.2 percent.

TT/The Local/og

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