Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Hidden alcohol

Apologies for the flurry of posts today – it’s probably the first Sunday in a long time when I’ve not had any major pressing work to do.

Did you that under UK law, a product does not have to declare its alcohol content unless it is greater than 0.5%? Furthermore, several common brands of drinks actually contain alcohol, but are under the 0.5% limit – these include Tango, Lucozade, Schweppes Shandy, Vimto, Red Bull and Ribena.

Of course, you’d have to drink a lot of these drinks to be even slightly tipsy – most have less than 0.1% alcohol content and therefore you’d need to drink several litres before you begin to feel the effects. And since most of these contain large amounts of sugar, you’re far more likely to be very hyper than drunk.

Is this a big deal? Well, that depends. I got the information from the web site of our local Halal supermarket, which serves the local Muslim community. Foods and drinks that contain alcohol are considered ‘haram’, or prohibited under Islamic teachings.


  1. No, it’s not a big deal for religion. People who have allergies that could be life-threatening from the smallest of doses may not be able to find the information they require on a product. It’s not just alcohol. If an ingredient isn’t a larger enough percentage they do not have to put it on the packaging. It’s bad, and potentially life-threatening, for everyone.

  2. I’d already assumed that Shandy, Red Bull and Lucozade would have close to the 0.5% alcohol content level and hence avoided them in the past. I’m far more concerned about the meat content those drinks apparently have though after reading that page. Plus most of them are going to have lots of E numbers and other junk.

  3. Right, now you’ve gone & done it. For at least a year now I’ve been able to read your blog without it involving work at all. Not with this post, oooh no.
    I work in a soft drinks factory (not one mentioned by the web site & I will specifically not name it or the specific products we make), and part of the job involves answering queries from the public, one of the perennials is alcohol content. Many if not most flavours used in the production of drinks contain ethanol, and the proportion which do contain it is rising due to immanent withdrawal of one of the popular alternatives (propan-2-ol) due to some European legislation that is currently being implemented. The problem is that the compounds used to give drinks their flavour do not in general dissolve well in water so a small amount of ethanol or similar compound helps them dissolve.
    Having said all that the ethanol content is in general very low. It would take quite a determined effort to get intoxicated on shandy which deliberately contains 0.5%. Meanwhile every other soft drink will in general contain less than 0.1% and it would be physically impossible to get intoxicated on them. Muslim councils have in the last year given the green light to both Lucozade & Irn-Bru despite both containing ethanol recognising that it is impractical to completely remove ethanol and not actually in anyone’s best interest as the alternatives are no better for the consumer. (I must make it clear that that was my wording, not theirs & one specifically stated that each drink should be assesed individually by Imams) see Irn Bru news article
    and Lucozade news article
    As for Trovster’s worry about allergies the EU parliament has been listening & another piece of legislation currently being implemented (manufacturers have until November to use up the pre-legislation packaging) ensures that if a product contains any of 8 “Major Serious Allergens” it must be mentioned at least in the ingredients panel. Most supermarkets are implementing a separate “contains” section to highlight these.
    Sorry Lord Rich, this is already long enough without trying to justify additives though I’m a bit confused about the animal content, it’s quite straight-forward & almost always cheaper to remove animal content. Probably SKB are being deliberatley vague.