Advocacy group calls on governments to act on sugary, alcoholic drinks - InfoNews

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Advocacy group calls on governments to act on sugary, alcoholic drinks

March 12, 2018 - 1:01 PM

MONTREAL - A non-profit group that advocates for sensible alcohol consumption chided the federal and provincial governments Monday for what it calls their inaction on sugary alcohol drinks following the death of a Quebec teen.

Educ'alcool director Hubert Sacy said he's not impressed with the response from lawmakers after the death of 14-year-old Athena Gervais, who reportedly consumed such a product last month.

Sacy said he was alarmed last fall when reports from emergency room doctors and ambulance technicians suggested teens being transported to hospitals with alcohol poisoning after consuming similar products was becoming a weekly occurrence.

"The sad thing was that both governments said to each other 'it's not me, it's you,' instead of saying what they could do," Sacy said of Gervais' death.

She was found dead in a stream behind her high school in Laval, and Montreal La Presse reported she had been drinking stolen cans of FCKD UP, a sweetened alcoholic beverage whose sugary taste masks the 11.9 per cent alcohol content — the equivalent of four drinks.

Police are still awaiting a toxicology report.

Sacy said Ottawa should ban the sale of alcoholic, sugary, premixed drinks or at least reduce their sizes and add stricter labelling.

"Ideally, every alcoholic beverage product that hides the taste and effect of alcohol should not be allowed on the market," Sacy said. "If authorized, they should be allowed to have the contents of one standard drink."

Geloso Group, the Montreal-area producer of the beverage Gervais had reportedly been drinking, announced last week it would stop producing the drink.

It said in a statement it had entered the market in order to compete with a U.S. company — Chicago-based Phusion's Four Loko — that at the time sold a similar drink in Quebec.

Four Loko was removed from store shelves because it ran afoul of Quebec's alcohol laws last year, but the company announced last week it has suspended the re-introduction of the product into the Quebec market.

However, other similar products remain on convenience store shelves.

Last week, Health Canada issued a reminder about the associated risks that come with consuming "large-volume, single-serve beverages that are high in alcohol."

It called on parents to talk to their teens about alcohol consumption and said it will review products on the market with Quebec authorities and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to assess their safety.

"Many single-serve alcohol products are intensely flavoured and are high in sugar, which could cause consumers not to realize how much alcohol they are actually consuming," Health Canada warned.

Gervais' godmother launched a petition calling for corner stores to be prohibited from selling drinks with more than 6.5 per cent alcohol.

And Emilie Dansereau-Trahan of the Quebec Association for Public Health said the products shouldn't be allowed to be sold next to a regular beer.

"I'm not sure people know they are drinking the equivalent of four portions of alcohol with one drink," said Dansereau-Trahan.

As for the Quebec government, Sacy said it can legislate on the minimum price of such products as well as making such premixed drinks only available at government-run liquor stores.

Sacy said similar products are sold elsewhere in Canada, but only in governmental stores and at a much higher price.

He also added that the advertising and promotion of the products should be subject to stricter regulations.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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