independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Beer 'cheaper than water' in shops

BEER is cheaper than water in many Irish supermarkets.

Consumers can buy a bottle of beer for as little as 50c while a small bottle of water can cost over three times that amount.

As health campaigners lobby for minimum drink prices in order to discourage the abuse of alcohol, a survey by the Irish Independent found widespread low prices.

Bottles of wine start from €4 and bottles of vodka from just €12.99.

Dozens of prices for beer, wine, cider and spirits were examined at all the big supermarket and convenience chains around the country.

In general, Aldi, Lidl and Tesco came out cheapest for alcohol, but there were notable exceptions.

Herlihy's Centra in Fermoy, Co Cork, had the cheapest price for beer – at just 50c for a 330ml bottle – last week of those surveyed.

Musgraves, which owns the Centra franchise, said that it understood its role in addressing alcohol abuse and had a strict policy regarding the sale and display of alcohol and complied fully with the Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland code.

"The product in question relates to two cases of Coors Light bottles only, which were end-of-line Christmas stock and did not apply to any other alcohol beverages on sale in any other Centra store," a statement said.

In Lidl, you can buy cans of lager for just 89c each, while Aldi has small 250ml bottles of beer that work out at just 41c each – though at 2.6pc, these are quite low in alcohol.

A Londis on Dublin's busy Westmoreland Street, meanwhile, charges as little as €1.25 for a can of beer.

However, the same quantity of bottled water will knock you back €1.75 there – meaning that, sip for sip, the water costs 40pc more.

The Centra on Portland Row, Dublin 1, had 500ml Premium Dutch lager for €1.20 on it's shelves, while 500ml Riverrock water was priced €1.31.

Tesco charges just €0.49 for its own brand standard 500ml bottle of still water, while Centra charges €1.

Professor Joe Barry of Trinity College's Department of Public Health said that the problem with very cheap offers such as 50c for a bottle of beer was that they encouraged harmful drinking among vulnerable people.

"The issue with very cheap alcohol like this is that it will be most attractive to alcoholics and young people who can't afford anything else," he said.

All the international evidence and domestic research showed that people responded to cut-price alcohol offers by buying more of it, which was a serious issue for problem drinkers and young people.

It was also a major concern for people trying to quit other drugs, as the widespread availability of cheap alcohol in corner stores hampered their attempts to stay clean and sober.

Prof Barry said it was vital the Government press ahead with the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing, and they must not yield to pressure from the drinks industry on this.

"The drinks industry is mounting a legal challenge to a similar measure in Scotland because they know it would reduce their sales," he said.

A minimum price of 50p (€0.61) per unit of alcohol was proposed there which would equate to around €1.22 per pint of beer, he said.

The Department of Health said it was preparing a framework for legislation to reduce alcohol consumption and misuse.

"The package of measures to be implemented will include provision for minimum unit pricing and regulation of the marketing and advertising of alcohol," it said.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, which represents drinks makers, said that retailers rather than manufacturers set the prices, but its members made quality products and did not wish to see them discounted and sold at a loss.

"We believe that a reinstatement of a ban on the below-cost selling of alcohol should be brought in as this was a very effective tool which prevented the selling of alcohol at deeply discounted prices," said its director Kathryn D'Arcy.

Irish Independent

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