October 14, 2008

Stop Sale of These `Soft Drinks’ With Alcohol

By S.M. Mohamed Idris

IN August 1997, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) exposed the hazards behind the sales of Alcopops, a trendy intoxicating beverage targeting the youth market. After all this time, similar beverages, designed and packaged like soft drinks, are once again readily available in the market.

Earlier this year, we supplied the relevant agency with information on the sale of these drinks and handed over several of these drink samples to both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, hoping for action to be taken.

Just a few days ago, we found exactly the same drinks being sold at a leading supermarket in Selangor. The drinks were placed in the general section, (not in the dedicated alcoholic drinks section) and only the words tidak halal were pasted on the shelves to warn customers. Even then, price stickers were found pasted over these tidak halal warnings, partially or almost completely hiding them.

The law clearly states that the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons below the age of 18 is prohibited. Unfortunately, these drinks are openly accessible to anyone who wishes to purchase them, including youngsters.

These beverages are presented with colourful labels, for example bright pink or orange, making them very attractive. Some of these drinks have an alcohol content as high as 5.5 per cent. This percentage is higher than the alcohol content in beer but it is still sold to children freely.

CAP's surveys have shown that there is a good chance the public may consume these drinks without knowing that they contain a high level of alcohol. This is due to the misleading labels which give the impression that these drinks are harmless.

We noted one brightly orange-coloured label which highlights that the drink contains Vitamin C. The alcohol content is often printed in small lettering that can hardly be noticed or often placed at the back of the bottle label.

Consumers can easily be misled and assume that they are buying a mere fruit drink or a soft drink.

The relevant agencies should quickly initiate measures that will see an immediate ban on the sale of alcoholic soft drinks. These drinks pose a serious danger to youngsters.


for Consumers Association of Penang

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