CAMRA calls for better beer legislation

By Contributor
April 17th, 2014

Despite the growing popularity of craft beer in British Columbia, many consumers are still being left in the dark when it comes to knowing exactly what’s in their glass and a local consumer advocacy group is asking them to make a fuss about it. 

A letter was sent earlier this morning by the Campaign for Real Ale Society of BC (CAMRA BC) explaining the importance of their FUSS, or Fess Up to Serving Sizes campaign, to Attorney General Suzanne Anton, Parliamentary Secretary John Yap, LCLB General Manager Douglas Scott, NDP Alcohol Portfolio Critic Shane Simpson and Premier Christy Clark.

It is a reminder that while laws are in place to prevent bars from misleading consumers on just how much beer they are getting for their buck, they remain unenforced.

“For too long has there been a discrepancy in what size a ‘sleeve’ of draught beer truly is and consumers are getting taken advantage of by establishments that do not to publish their serving volumes,” says the CAMRA BC Advocacy Committee Representative and Powell River Branch President, Paddy Treavor. “We have written to policy makers, urging them to consider the importance of consumer education with regards to alcohol and how it relates to consumer choice as well as public safety. It’s a common sense regulation that we see enforced in many other jurisdictions, but why not here?”

Not only is it important to know what you’re paying for, but also how tipsy you’re going to get off each glass, Treavor explains, “What many consumers don’t know is that there is no standard size for a ‘sleeve’ and we’ve seen them served anywhere between 12 and 16 ounces. There’s also the issue of whether a bar serves their ‘pint’ as American or Imperial, the difference of which is four ounces. More than that, not knowing the strength of what you just drank makes it difficult to determine if ordering one more is a good idea, so making it mandatory for bars to publish the details of a beer’s strength and serving size would help avoid over-consumption.”

Not only would knowing these details allow consumers to make informed decisions about how much is safe to drink before driving, but it would also help wait staff gauge when it’s time for someone to go home.

“This legislation exists with good reason and enforcing it is imperative to maintaining public safety while helping bartenders to avoid over-serving at the same time,” insists Adam Chatburn, President of the CAMRA BC Vancouver Branch. “A simple solution is to phase in the requirement for any establishment that serves beer on tap to do so in glassware with its serving size marked and certified, as is common in many European countries.”

CAMRA BC is preparing to let consumers know how often they are being misled. The 1500 member strong advocacy group is prepared to get consumers on board as the campaign progresses through both petitions and letter writing. “We have been told that law enforcement has bigger things to worry about, but ignoring laws designed to prevent bars from misleading, and frankly overcharging, consumers while risking public health and safety is a very serious issue if you ask me,” Chatburn concludes.

You can follow the FUSS campaign as it develops by using the #FUSS and #ServingItWrong hashtags to keep track of where inaccurately sized beer is being served. You can learn more about FUSS here and for other CAMRA BC initiatives and how to get involved visit www.camravancouver.ca.