Is 0.5% ABV alcohol-free?

Written By Ian

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You might be wondering why some non-alcoholic drinks still contain a small amount of alcohol. 

Maybe you’ve picked up a few non-alcoholic beers in the past, or you’re considering going the non-alcoholic route in future, you might have realised the majority of non-alcoholic beers have 0.5% abv on the label.

If your choice is to stay alcohol-free, you might be wondering why some non-alcoholic drinks still contain a small amount of alcohol. 

Many non-alcoholic beers, wines, spirits, and ciders do contain a little alcohol – up to 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) in many cases.

You might think it’s a bit of an oxymoron. 

And for some people, it can add a bit of stigma to actually trying non-alcoholic beers in the first place.

If you’re avoiding alcohol for health or even personal or religious reasons, you might wonder if there’s any point in giving non-alcoholic beers a go since it kind of defeats the purpose if it has 0.5% abv. 

After all, you’re still drinking some alcohol.

So, let’s look at why non-alcoholic beers contain some alcohol, and if this effects you if you are avoiding alcohol entirely.

Why Is There Alcohol In Non-Alcoholic Beers

Well, it all has to do with the fermentation process. 

In order to make non-alcoholic drinks, brewers either have to find a way to stop the fermentation process before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, or remove the alcohol using a boil-off method. 

Even with the progress made in technology to make beers as close to zero as possible, no matter which method is sued, sometimes, a tiny bit of alcohol can remain.

If you’re wondering why there’s alcohol in your non-alcoholic beer, now you know. It’s not because the brewer is trying to get you drunk, it’s just a by-product of the brewing process.

But, does this effect me if I am trying to avoid alcohol?

Is 0.5 ABV Alcohol Safe To Drink

Despite these trace amounts of alcohol, non-alcoholic beers are still considered safe for consumption by most people, including pregnant women and those who are recovering from alcohol addiction. 

However, it is important to check the label of any non-alcoholic beer before purchasing or consuming, as some brands may still have higher alcohol levels than others.

If you still aren’t convinced here are some other reasons why 0.5 ABV is perfectly safe:

Many Common Household Foods Contain Similar Alcohol Levels:

Yup! Many of the fruits we eat and juices we use to pick us up each morning have similar alcohol content as a non-alcoholic beer.

Even your grapefruit juice or burger rolls contain as much (if not more) alcohol as a typical non-alcoholic beer.

0.5% is considered a low amount of alcohol as it is about the average abv contained in many common household food & drinks.

The only reason non-alcoholic beer is labelled is that alcohol is an active ingredient if it has been added as an ingredient by the brewer

So, a non-alcoholic beer needs to list alcohol as an ingredient because alcohol has been added during the brewing process and then filtered or boiled before becoming a non-alcoholic product.

0.5 ABV Can’t Get You Drunk:

There’s a common misconception that any alcoholic beverage will get you drunk, no matter the alcohol content. 

That’s just not true.

Theoretically, drinking 10 0.5% beers would equal 1 regular 5% beer. 

And, on average, your body can process one unit of alcohol every hour where one unit of alcohol is equivalent to 8g of pure alcohol. 

So, if a pint of 0.5% beer contains 0.28 units of alcohol. This means that your body can process the entire pint of 0.5% beer every 17 minutes. 

Thankfully we don’t have to try this one ourselves, as the University of Freidburg have already but this to the test in 2012. 

 In this 2012 study, 67 people refrained from consuming alcohol for a period of five days and then drank 1.5 litres of 0.4% ABV beer within the span of an hour. 

The blood alcohol content of these individuals never rose higher than 0.0056%

This is 7 times lower than the level (0.04%) at which most people begin to feel the minor effects of alcohol consumption.

So, that pretty much settled the debate that 0.5% beers can’t get you drunk. 

It’s the same as drinking too much grapefruit, or orange juice. 

Your body will deal with the traces of alcohol before you start feeling the effects of it.

0.5 ABV Is Considered By Law Alcohol Free:

Obviously, drinks with an ABV of up to 0.5% are not technically free of alcohol. However, lawmakers understand that there is already naturally occurring alcohol in many of the things we eat and drink.

And, as we already mentioned it’s pretty much impossible to get drunk from 0.5% alcohol.

The laws differ from country to country, most in terms of how non-alcoholic beers can be labelled and marketed.

U.K Non-Alcoholic Beer Laws

In the UK there are 4 categories of “beer”. 

> Alcohol-free beer contains no more than 0.05% ABV

> De-alcoholised beer contains no more than 0.5% ABV

> Low-alcohol beer contains no more than 1.2% ABV

> Alcoholic beer contains more than 1.2% ABV

U.S Non-Alcoholic Beer Laws

The U.S also has 4 categories of “beer”, but categorises this differently from the U.K.

> Low alcohol and reduced alcohol. The terms “low alcohol” or “reduced alcohol” may be used only on malt beverages containing less than 2.5% alcohol by volume.

> Non-alcoholic. The term “non-alcoholic” may be used on malt beverages, provided the statement “contains less than 0.5 percent (or .5%) alcohol by volume” appears in direct conjunction with it, in readily legible printing and on a completely contrasting background.

> Alcohol-free. The term “alcohol free” may be used only on malt beverages containing no alcohol

EU Non-Alcoholic Beer Laws

The EU categorises “beer” into 2 categories. 

> Alcohol-free is anything under 1.2%.

> A beer is anything over 1.2%abv.

EU law also states that drinks under 1.2% ABV don’t need the percentage shown on the label.

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