Lawsuit Takes Issue with Heineken's 0.0 Beer for Containing as Much as 0.03% Alcohol
The effects from a sip of beer are different than drinking a case of beer. Volume matters and the U.S. government understands this, so "non-alcoholic" beers have a bit of leeway. To use the "non-alcoholic" label, a brew only has to be less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). But not all terminology is the same: For a drink to be labeled "alcohol-free," the alcohol level has to be literally 0.0 percent ABV.
As a result, the labeling for Heineken 0.0 — the Dutch brand's "alcohol-free" beer that launched in the U.S. in 2019 — would seem cut and dry. Beyond stating 0.0 percent ABV, the product is labeled with the phrase "alcohol free." But a recent lawsuit suggests that the beer shouldn't be called "0.0" at all. A Louisiana woman is suing Heineken USA, saying that Heineken 0.0's label is misleading because it actually contains a tiny 0.03 percent alcohol. So much for rounding down.
In the lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Louisiana, plaintiff Kathleen M. Wilson argues that "Heineken 0.0 does contain alcohol in the amount of less than 0.03 percent alcohol." The lawsuit does not provide the source of this claim, but on Heineken 0.0's own F.A.Q. page, the brand states that it "contains an extremely small amount of alcohol, maximum 0.03 percent ABV."
The lawsuit continues, stating, "There are consumers who do not wish to ingest even the minuscule amount of alcohol contained in the product. Consumers should be given that option by being fully informed of the ingredients (i.e. alcohol content) in the product even if it contains less than .03 alcohol."
Heineken does address this issue on their website, pointing out that fermentation is a natural process, and minuscule levels of alcohol can be found in all sorts of places. The brand explains that 0.03 percent ABV is a "comparable or lower level of alcohol vs. other food products such as bread, bakery products and juices, bananas [sic] due to the natural fermentation of the ingredients (cereals, fruits)." The website also states that, "Heineken 0.0's label and ingredient declaration is in line with local food laws and regulations."
But in the end, the plaintiff says she wanted to purchase a product with no alcohol and, had she not been misled by Heineken's "false and deceptive representation," she would not have purchased their N/A beer; therefore, she has suffered damages.
Heineken USA is being sued for violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act, violation of state consumer fraud acts, breaches of express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability, Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, fraud, and unjust enrichment, according to the Louisiana Record.
In response to our request, a Heineken spokesperson provided the following comment: "We're aware of the complaint that was recently filed in Louisiana and are confident in the merits of our case. As this is a matter of the court, we cannot comment or share any further details at this time."
The plaintiff has asked for injunctive relief requesting Heineken change the labeling of the product, and monetary damages as well as court costs.