Children acquire alcohol effortlessly during events

12 November 2011

The first mystery shop-research during events shows once more that compliance with the present Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act is failing.

From research by the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) it appears that for young people under the age of 16 year it is easy to buy alcohol. The research was carried out during 10 different events that took place in the Gelderse Food Valley region last summer. In total 20 purchase-efforts were made by 15 year olds. The young people could buy alcohol everywhere.
Age-control-systems appear not to work because of the indifference of the personnel. The research was carried out by order of the project FrisValley, the alcohol-moderation-project directed at young people from the Food Valley region. This is the first research examining the compliance of the age-limits of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act concerning events.

Unique mystery-shoppers research during events
During 10 summer-events in the Food Valley region that took place in July and August all 20 purchasing-efforts by 15 year old mystery-shoppers were successful. The events included local street-parties, municipal platform-parties and regional summer-parties with visitor-numbers ranging from 200 to 20.000 visitors per event.
During the research use is being made of the method of mystery-shopping. Under supervision of STAP-researchers and keeping within a protocol a 15 year old boy and a 15 year old girl tried to buy alcohol.
The compliance-research in Food Valley region is the first of its kind. Previously it was not recognised in a certain region mapped whether there was compliance with the age-limits at events.

Compliance age-limits at events is 0%
From the research it appeared that the youngsters at only two of twenty purchasing-attempts were asked about their age and/or ID-certificate, after these were examined they were still able to buy alcohol in both cases.

Wristlets don’t work
At five out of ten events use was being made of an age-control device such as a wristlet or stamp. At these events two purchase-efforts were made. The 15 year olds at 5 events received an inappropriate stamp or wristlet so that it appeared that they were 16 years old. At the five events where the 15 year olds did not get a wristlet, the mystery-shopper still obtained alcohol at the bar.

As long as you may have fun
During the research also remarkable statements by the personnel of the events were recorded. At one of the events an entrance-age was in force.
After the check of the age and the ID-certificate of the young people, the employee knew that they were 15 years old, however he said: “I let you in and if you buy alcohol, you must say that you got it from somebody else, not from the bar. You did not get this wristlet from me”. At another event the youngster did not receive a wristlet at the entrance rightly no wristlet, but could still buy alcohol using money. The counsellor said: “I don’t mind, as long as you may have fun”.

Better events-policy
The Food Valley region has, during the past few months, worked on a better policy on age-limits at events. This research is part of the long term approach that the region has planned. The heart of the proposed approach is that in the future they will describe how they will control age limits at events before the event and how a system will work to implement it. The regional-municipalities want to know how effective is the compliance at events currently.

Wim van Dalen, director of STAP said “This is the umpteenth method of alcohol sales that disregards compliance with age-limits. It is clear that more effective supervision is needed concerning compliance with age-limits. The new Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act which will come into force in 2012, offers the chance for the region to improve compliance with the age-limits. The municipalities will then become competent to supervise the compliance with the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act. At present this is still a task of the new Food and Consumer Safety Authority, which currently is severely understaffed”.

For more information about research
Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP)
Mr Ir W.E. van Dalen, Director
Mr Drs J. Mulder, Coördinator, Local Alcohol Policy STAP
T 030-6565041 / 06 42382457
I (general website STAP)
I (website of STAP for municipalities)


Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043