13th January, 2020 by Edith Hancock

A GP has hit out at food manufacturer Müller over a range of gin-flavoured yoghurts that are “counterproductive to public health”.

Should brands be more cautious over booze-flavoured foods?

The UK arm of Müller added two gin-flavoured yoghurts to its Müllerlight range, one inspired by the classic G&T and the other flavoured with pink gin and elderflower, last year. Both include 0.5% ABV gin.

The company’s chief marketing officer, Michael Inpong, said at the time it was responding to “shifting consumer behaviour”, as sales of gin continue to grow in value and volume in the UK.

They are currently available in Tesco and Asda stores and will be sold in six-packs, which include both flavour variants.

But a complaint about the yoghurts has made its way onto the BBC’s website.

GP Dr Nigel Wells criticised the inclusion of gin in the dairy product, and took to Twitter to ask “Have we not got enough issues with alcohol related health problems.”

Wells told the BBC: “Given the problems we have with alcohol as a society – which is very visible in our GP practices and A&E departments – the creation of alcohol inspired yoghurts seems unnecessary and counterproductive to public health.

“I welcome public discussion and debate around our use of alcohol, which clearly can be enjoyed sensibly, but in light of the Dry January campaign and the health benefits it brings I question whether this product is really necessary.”

Unsurprisingly, his post has attracted negative comments on social media, with one user calling his criticism “mindless pearl clutching,” while another called Wells a “killjoy” for linking the flavour of a spirit to alcohol misuse.

While many have responded to Wells online claiming he is overreacting, it is certainly not the first time a medical professional has raised concerns over this kind of novelty product launch.

In 2004, Australian biscuit maker Arnott’s caused a controversy when it released limited edition Tim Tam Tia Maria and Kahlua Mint Slice varieties, flavoured with the popular liqueurs.

Geof Munro, spokesman of the Australian Drug Foundation expressed his concern about alcohol related products at the time, and claimed the  “taste of alcohol” is now being added to “every possible food-stuff.”

“We could see breakfast cereal laced with alcohol.”

Alcohol in foods, or the flavour of alcohol, can be a pitfall for recovering addicts, as the taste and scent can trigger cravings they are struggling to control. They also run the risk of familiarising children with their flavour before they are legally allowed to drink.

In fact, until last year, it was illegal to sell alcohol-flavoured food products in Singapore at certain times, as they were treated with the same caution as alcohol. Under the country’s Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, it forbidden to sell alcohol and alcohol-flavoured foodstuffs from 10:30pm to 7am, and their consumption in public places was also banned. The restrictions were lifted in January 2019.

However, most alcohol flavoured food contains no or only limited volumes of alcohol, and sometimes even less than a regular piece of fruit. Ripe bananas can contain up to 0.5g of alcohol per 100g, while orange juice can contain up to 0.73g of alcohol per litre (or around 0.18g in a 250ml glass).

A spokesperson for Müller said the gin-flavoured yoghurts can “be enjoyed regularly as part of a healthy balanced diet.

“We know from feedback from our consumers that they are enjoying it.”

Should brands be more cautious about adding booze to their foods, or is it just a bit of fun? Let us know in the comments.