Sweden’s alcohol-free drink label ‘misleading’

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.

Sweden’s alcohol-free drink label 'misleading'

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

Follow The Local on Twitter

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Swedes warned: Vodka won’t protect you from the coronavirus

Sweden's state-run alcohol chain Systembolaget has advised customers not to buy its spirits as a substitute for hand sanitiser.

Swedes warned: Vodka won't protect you from the coronavirus
Stockholmers queuing outside Systembolaget before Easter. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

One of the best ways of avoiding the new coronavirus and prevent its spread is to wash your hands often with soap and water, according to the Swedish Public Healh Agency.

If you don't have access to soap or running water, hand sanitiser is the next best option, but the product has been flying off the shelves as shoppers try to get their hands on a bottle.

Sweden's state-owned alcohol chain Systembolaget has been forced to put up signs in several of its stores informing customers that alcohol such as vodka and gin does not work as a substitute for hand sanitiser.

“NOT HAND SANITISER,” read the signs.

“We have had a few questions from customers and have put up signs in those stores,” said Systembolaget press officer Therese Elmgren.

“But it is not possible, just as the signs say. The percentage (of alcohol) needs to be higher.”

An alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent is needed for disinfectant to be effective in killing viruses or bacteria. Absolut Vodka, to use an example of a popular Swedish vodka brand, has an alcohol concentration of 40 percent.

However, some of the ingredients are the same, and during the coronavirus crisis Absolut has adapted parts of its manufacturing in order to produce pure alcohol which can be used for cleaning purposes, instead of vodka for consumption. This pure alcohol then needs to be mixed with gel, manufactured separately, to create usable sanitiser for the healthcare sector.