What is an 'alcohol-free' drink?
Commonly in Europe drinks of 0.5% ABV and below are considered to be alcohol-free. Any drink imported into the UK from Europe with a ABV of 0.5% or less is considered alcohol-free.
No alcohol license is needed to sell alchohol-free drinks in the UK.
The reality is that 0.5% ABV is a very small amount of alcohol. The truth is that anything that goes through a natural fermentation process has a trace of alcohol, and many foods and drinks do like: vinegar, over-ripe bananas, other fruit, bread, juices, and even lemonade. To put this into persepctive 0.5% abv is similar to what you would find in a fresh orange juice.
Labelling legislation is inconsistent, it can be very confusing! Some products have to state their alcohol content (the “ABV”), while others don’t. Some drinks can be called “alcohol-free”, while very similar drinks can’t.
You can buy a soft drink (alcohol-free ginger beer for example and some kombutchas) that are up 0.5%, but don’t need to say so as they are in the ‘soft drink’ category. Desserts and food stuffs don’t need an abv even though many will contain over 0.5% alcohol.
The bottom line is you would have to drink huge amounts of these drinks to feel the effects of the alcohol, like 10 bottles of 0.5% beer to get to one unit!