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FOOD & DRINK

Will Switzerland place warning labels on alcohol?

Pressure is building for Swiss alcohol bottles, including spirits, wine and beer, to include warning labels like cigarettes. Would this make sense - and would it lead to behavioural change?

Does Switzerland need to place mandatory warning labels on alcohol products - and would it help? Photo by Daniel Vogel on Unsplash
Does Switzerland need to place mandatory warning labels on alcohol products - and would it help? Photo by Daniel Vogel on Unsplash

Within a short period of time, labels on tobacco products worldwide went from displaying logos and even cartoon-style characters to pictures of lines and death alongside capitalised warnings. 

Now, countries across the globe including Switzerland have mandated graphic labels on tobacco products, while other countries like New Zealand are considering outlawing tobacco altogether. 

Across Europe, a similar movement is gaining steam to add warning labels on alcohol products, including beer, wine and spirits. 

While it may have begun as a fringe campaign, it is now being discussed at a European Union level – and has won plenty of support in Switzerland. 

National Council member Katharina Prelicz-Huber supports an awareness campaign where consumers are informed through wider labelling on alcoholic products. 

“One should talk about the fact that alcohol can be both a stimulant and an addiction,” Prelicz-Huber told 20 Minutes. 

“You have to be aggressive in informing people.

“It would need notices like ‘Caution: Excessive consumption is dangerous’ or ‘Caution: Can be addictive’ on the labels”.

Addiction Swiss, a support organisation, has called for labelling on alcohol products to mirror that of cigarettes, warning people of everything from the likelihood of violence to the risk of cancer. 

“The fact is that mortality from high-risk alcohol use is linked to a variety of illnesses, accidents or injuries. With more than a third, alcohol-related cancer is the most important” said Monique Portner-Helfer, a spokesperson for Addiction Switzerland. 

“The cancer risk in particular is still little known among the general public. Warnings on bottles could do something.”

The Swiss Blue Cross, an NGO focused on “protecting people from being harmed by alcohol and drugs” says consumers should be informed of the risks of alcohol consumption. 

“You need to give consumers a clean slate” Martin Bienlein, a spokesperson for the group, told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes. 

“Warning notices on the bottles, like on cigarette packs, would make sense here.”

Alcohol producers say they recognise the concern, but point to existing labels on alcohol products which encourage people to ‘drink responsibility’, saying these warnings should be sufficient. 

The Swiss Brewery Association said it “rejects shock images on labels”. 

Marcel Dobler, from the centrist FDP, criticised the idea, arguing that such labels were inconsistent with Switzerland’s “free society”. 

“Everything is unhealthy in excess,” he told 20 Minutes. 

“It’s absurd what has to be written on products these days.

“I ask myself whether such excessive prevention is in the interests of our free society.”

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FOOD & DRINK

REVEALED: Which city has Switzerland’s cheapest beer?

Anyone looking for a cheap pint in Switzerland is likely to struggle no matter where they are, but there are still good deals to be had for a cold, frosty one.

REVEALED: Which city has Switzerland’s cheapest beer?

Some research carried out in Switzerland is more important to consumers than others.  

This one definitely fits under the ‘news you can use’ category.

A recent survey conducted by consumer website Hellosafe compared the price of a half a litre of beer in 29 cities in different cantons.

The prices come from 2022 and have incorporated recent spikes in cost for beer producers. 

READ MORE: Seven beers to try in Switzerland

Where is Switzerland’s cheapest beer? 

The study found that one of the cheapest pints, at 5.22 francs, can be had in Aarau, followed by Bern  (5.92).

While it is one of the world’s most expensive cities, a big mug of beer in Zurich costs “only”  6.96 francs, four cents less than in another relatively inexpensive location, the Valais capital of Sion.

Where is Switzerland’s most expensive pint of beer? 

Beer lovers in the west of Switzerland would be better off sticking to wine, with French-speaking Switzerland charging the most when it comes to beer anywhere in the country. 

The priciest half-litres are in Geneva (7.72 francs) and Lausanne (7.96).

Reader question: Can you drink in public in Switzerland?

Next on the list are Basel and Davos, which may appear to have very little in common with each other besides beer costing CHF7.03 per pint. 


What does the future hold? 

The study also looked ahead at how the war in Ukraine is likely to increase the cost of cereals used to manufacture beer, impacting the price of the end product.

Grain prices in Switzerland are expected to rise by 4 percent per tonne by the end of 2022, which will see price increases in several parts of the country. 

Accordingly, the price of a pint in Lausanne could increase by 32 cents and reach CHF 8.28. 

If Hellosafe’s estimates are correct, then the price of beer will increase the least in Olten, Langenthal, Chur and Arbon.

Beer in Switzerland

While Switzerland may be known internationally more for wine, beer has seen a strong surge in interest in recent years – particularly since the pandemic. 

Switzerland now boasts the highest density of breweries anywhere in Europe, with the Covid crisis a major factor in transforming the country into a beer hub. 

READ MORE: How the Covid crisis led to a boom in Swiss beer production

In 2020, 80 new breweries were established in Switzerland. 

Switzerland now has 1,212 breweries – which gives it a higher ratio of breweries to people than any of the other big brewing nations in Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Belgium. 

Just ten years ago, Switzerland had only 246 breweries, while in 1990 there were only 32 breweries in the entire country, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports. 

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