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Is beer with lemon actually healthier than just regular beer?

Is beer with lemon actually healthier than just regular beer?

Spain's consumer watchdog has won a lawsuit against the Damm brand for misleading information on its labels

Isabel Ibáñez

Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 19:42

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It's the tonic, the hallmark of all lemon-flavoured beers: an advertisement and design showing lush, bright yellow fruit. But the question is how much of the citrus fruit is in the product. Spain's consumer organisation OCU said: "Our latest study shows that the presence of lemon is almost testimonial."

It comes after the OCU won a lawsuit against the Damm brand for misleading information on its labelling. The Catalan consumer agency ruled in their favour, forcing the company to modify the information.

"On its label it indicated a composition that is made with six parts beer and four parts lemon, but in the list of ingredients, in much smaller print, it was made clear that these four parts lemon are actually lemon juice from concentrate, so the real lemon content of Damm Lemon is 0.4%."

Even so, the OCU is not satisfied, as it considers the advertising still misleading: "The brand has corrected the information on its website: it uses an asterisk to clarify that four parts lemon actually refers to four parts of a refreshing lemon juice drink. But no matter how much they add an asterisk, the claim 'four parts lemon' is still not true."

Healthier?

There is more: "These beers are sold as refreshing drinks with lemon juice, even though they contain only 0.4% lemon. And this is perfectly legal: a fruit juice drink is one that is characterised by the presence of fruit juices, fruit purees, fruit pulp or fruit blends, but in no case does it set a minimum juice content."

It will then be necessary to analyse the label of each brand to find out how much lemon it contains, and even then, this could be misleading. It is easy to imagine that seeing lustrous lemons dripping with water on a can of drink or in advertising, especially on a hot day, will tempt the consumer. Their mind constructs an image of the product as even cooler, healthier and less alcoholic than it really is.

The vast majority of manufacturers offer their own version of what the barman used to do when asked for a 'pica', 'clara', 'lejía' and even 'champú', depending on the geographical area, i.e. mix half a beer with half a lemon-flavoured soft drink (the typical carbonated one), but now it comes already packaged with pictures of the citrus fruit and promises of natural juice. But how much lemon do these drinks really contain?

There are two types of lemon beer, Radler and Shandy, and the latter never contained citrus, only flavouring

According to the OCU, there are two types of lemon beer on the market, Radler and Shandy. The former originated in Bavaria (southern Germany) at the beginning of the 20th century, when someone came up with the idea of mixing beer and lemon during a cycling race. Shandy, on the other hand, comes from England, where, accustomed to drinking beer with ginger, they suddenly decided to try it with lemonade. Today, however, the lemon juice is, according to the OCU, a mere token presence.

The experts' analysis of the brands on the market shows that Radler beers contain between 2% and 3.2% alcohol by volume, which is about half that of a traditional beer. "And as for the amount of juice, there is something for everyone: from Radler beers made without juice, only with flavourings - such as Radler Perlenbacher (Lidl) - to those with a minimum amount of juice - only 0.4% of Damm Lemon - to the most generous with 5% of fruit - Amber and Saerbrau (Carrefour).

5%

This is the maximum amount of citrus found in one of the Radler beers, and from there it goes down in most cases, reaching 0.4%, with some that only include fruit flavourings.

Shandy has less than 1% alcohol, "it can be compared to a traditional low alcohol beer, and here there is no lemon juice, only aromas". As for the group of 0.0% lemon beers, "they have no alcohol at all, and all the beers analysed contain a small amount of juice that does not exceed 4%", the consumer rights watchdog found.

The OCU confirmed that many consumers tend to believe this product is healthier than a traditional beer, but warns, "This is not always the case; they contain less alcohol, but include sugary soft drinks. A Radler has 12% more calories than a normal beer on average, 145 kcal per can. Shandy, with less alcohol, provides 110 kcal, 15% less than the classic beer. A can of Radler 0.0% has 89 kcal, 32% less. The healthiest option is the 0.0% alcohol version, but a can of beer with lemon can have the equivalent of three sachets of sugar. There are sugar-free versions, with sweeteners such as acesulfame K or sucralose, which the OCU does not recommend."

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