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Health Canada mandates lower alcohol content in sugary alcoholic drinks

WATCH: Health Canada is ordering companies that manufacture sweetened alcoholic beverages to limit the drink's alcoholic content. But as Global's Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports, some say the regulation doesn't go far enough.

Health Canada is ordering that companies that manufacture sweetened alcoholic beverages must limit the drinks’ alcoholic content.

A single serving will now be capped at 25.3 millilitres of alcohol — representing 1.5 standard drinks — when beverages are packaged in containers of a volume of 1,000 millilitres or less.
The regulations are effective immediately, and there will be no transition period.

“We want to make sure these types of products are removed off the shelves immediately,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

READ MORE: Government should limit alcohol content of sugary alcoholic drinks: committee

Many of the sugary alcoholic drinks on the market can contain as many as four standard alcoholic drinks.

The federal agency says the drinks pose a serious health problem, especially for youth.

The move comes after the death of a Quebec teenager who drowned after consuming several cans of FCKD UP, a sweetened alcoholic drink.

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WATCH: Montreal teen’s drowning death linked to high-sugar, alcoholic drinks: coroner

Laval teen’s death attributed to sugary alcoholic drinks
Laval teen’s death attributed to sugary alcoholic drinks

Athena Gervais, 14, whose body was found in a stream behind her high school last March, had consumed the equivalent of 12 glasses of wine, according to a coroner’s report.

“I remain very concerned about the prevalence of problematic alcohol use, especially among Canadian youth,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “These regulations restricting alcohol content in single-serve, flavoured, purified alcoholic beverages can help to reduce the potential health harms and keep youth safe.”

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Quebec-based non-profit Éduc’Alcool criticized the government’s move, calling it “incomprehensible, disappointing and irresponsible.”

READ MORE: Quebec beverage maker Geloso Group announces end of FCKD UP drink

The organization says Health Canada doesn’t go far enough and didn’t take into consideration its recommendations or those of Quebec’s coroner on the matter.

“None of our recommendations were retained, and we weren’t asking for the moon!” wrote Hubert Sacy, Educ’Alcool’s director.

Educ’Alcool had recommended companies limit the alcohol content of sugary beverages to the equivalent of one drink as opposed to the currently suggested one-and-a-half servings.
The recommendation is in line with that of Quebec’s coroner.

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“We perceive this as a contemptuous regulation for all organizations, such as ours, which aim to protect youth and vulnerable people from these hypocritical and misleading sugary alcoholic beverages,” Sacy said.

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WATCH BELOW: Quebec beverage maker Geloso Group announces end of FCKD UP drink

Quebec beverage maker Geloso Group announces end of FCKD UP drink
Quebec beverage maker Geloso Group announces end of FCKD UP drink

Sacy also lamented the fact that the regulations don’t include any control over labelling or packaging, something Educ’Alcool says it — along with other organizations — pushed for.

“This is stubbornness! (Health Canada’s) measures are based on nothing at all. For us, this is a missed opportunity in prevention and to protect youth,” said Sacy.

Petitpas Taylor acknowledged not everyone agrees with Health Canada’s decision to limit the alcohol content to 1.5 servings and not one.

The minister told Global News the ministry decided that 1.5 servings was appropriate after receiving the feedback of many groups.

“There’s many health groups, public health agencies and public health officers that indicated to us that anything from one to 1.5 was appropriate,” Petitpas Taylor said.

Petitpas Taylor said the ministry is planning to look into labelling and packaging next but offered no timeline.

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As for Sacy, he says Educ’Alcool will continue to educate people and fight for stronger regulations.

— With files from Global’s Dan Spector and the Canadian Press

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