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Is 0.5% ABV alcohol-free?

Is 0.5% ABV alcohol-free?

When exploring the shelves, looking for an alcohol-free drink, you may stumble across a range of beers, wines or spirits with an alcohol-free stamp but on closer inspection, those drinks actually contain 0.5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) in alcohol content.

Whether you’re choosing to cut back or quit alcohol altogether, you shouldn’t be concerned to see 0.5% alcohol content on ‘alcohol-free’ choices. So, is 0.5% actually alcohol-free?

In the UK alcohol-free means drinks below 0.05% ABV and ‘low-alcohol’ means drinks below 1.2%ABV. But in many countries, including all in the EU, drinks that contain 0.5% alcohol or less, by law, are considered to be alcohol-free.

Why is 0.5% ABV considered alcohol-free?

Obviously, strictly speaking, drinks that contain up to 0.5% ABV are not free of alcohol. But lawmakers realise there is actually already naturally occurring alcohol in many of the things we eat and drink. For example, a 2016 German study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, found the following ethanol alcohol content (ABV) in:

Product ABV (%)
Bread (American Burger Rolls) 1.9%
Grape Juice 0.86%
Apple Juice 0.26%
Orange Juice 0.2%
Bananas 0.02%
Yoghurt 0.02%


In other words, there is less alcohol in a 0.5% ABV beer than naturally occurs in some grape juice! And there is more alcohol to be found in a banana than in many alcohol-free beverages.

Is it ok to consume drinks with 0.5% ABV alcohol if you’re cutting out alcohol?

Deciding whether to still enjoy 0.5% alcohol-free drinks is your choice. If you are deciding to cut back on alcohol, then you may decide that choosing drinks with a 0.5% alcohol content is fine. If you’re pregnant or choosing to remove alcohol from your diet for health reasons then there are plenty of delicious 0% alcohol-free options that contain no alcohol at all. Either way, you can enjoy a delicious drink without the dreaded hangover the next day.

Can you get drunk on 0.5% ABV alcohol?

Many people wonder if you can get drunk by drinking non-alcoholic drinks and if you’re a healthy adult then the answer is usually no. Most people start to feel ‘drunk’ when blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.04%, and when drinking low alcohol beer it is almost impossible for your blood alcohol content to reach 0.04%.

This was proven by a 2012 study, where researchers asked 67 people to abstain from drinking alcohol for five days and then asked them to drink 1.5 litres of 0.4% ABV beer in an hour. The researchers measured their blood content throughout the hour and the maximum blood alcohol content was 0.0056%, which is 7x lower than the level (0.04%) that most people start to feel the minor effects of alcohol.

The main reason for this is that your body processes the alcohol almost as quickly as you drink it, so the blood alcohol content in your blood never builds up.

How we can help!

Whatever your reason for saying goodbye to alcoholic drinks - we think everyone should have a great choice when it comes to delicious drinks. So, whether you’re looking for an ice-cold beer to enjoy on a hot, summer’s day or a refreshing cocktail to enjoy with friends - we’ve got you covered.

Check out our Zerology Zone for more fascinating insights such as Can you drink non-alcoholic beer when pregnant?