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'Alarming' detail on Woolworths product sparks concerns: 'Potentially harmful'

Concerns for how 'readily available' the product is have sparked calls for better controls.

A shocked Woolworths customer spotted a concerning detail on a cooking product, provoking a discussion on whether it should be sold in supermarkets.

In the video, Brayden Smith picked up the 250ml bottle of cooking sake from a shelf, pointing out the high alcohol volume inside.

"So in Woolies they've got cooking sake... surely it can't be alcoholic or anything, right?" the customer said on TikTok. "No it is, up to 14.5 per cent alcohol volume for $3.60."

"Why go to the pub when you can go to Woolies!"

A photo of cooking sake at Woolworths. Right: A photo of the alcohol warning at the back.
A Woolworths customer pointed out the huge percentage of alcohol in cooking sake, which is sold at supermarkets. Source: TikTok/braydensmith81

Woolworths discourages drinking cooking sake

At the back of the product on the bottom there is a label that says "not suitable for drinking" in bolded writing — a point a Woolworths spokesperson stressed in their response.

"Cooking sake and wines are not intended for consumption as a beverage and the labels state that the products are not suitable for drinking," they told Yahoo.

"We strongly encourage customers to follow the guidelines and only use the products for their intended cooking purposes."

Social media users react to video

While it's not recommended to drink, the risk of people — especially those underage — buying it as alcohol at supermarkets still remains — something discussed in the comments of the video.

"That's wild, yet when I bought 0% beers at Woolies the other day they had to approve I was over 18," one person said.

"They also have this thing called sanitiser, and it's like 99% alcohol," another said.

"Just wait until you see vanilla essence," a third person said.

Others pointed out cooking sake has a large amount of salt content, which wouldn't make it particularly nice to drink. "Almost your whole recommended daily intake of salt in one bottle though," one person said.

Cooking sake is one of several household products sold in supermarkets that contain alcohol. Others include flavoured extracts, hand sanitiser and mouthwash.

Calls for 'more controls' on selling product

The content of alcohol in cooking sake is "similar to a [bottle] of wine," which Associate Professor Anne-Marie Laslett thought was "alarming" given how "readily available" it is.

"There is the potential for it to be used by people in a harmful way and there seems to be very limited controls on the amount that might be sold [at supermarkets] and whether you need a licence to access it," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"That is a risk that seems to be apparent for young people that are generally protected via other ways by licensing regulations which prevent them from purchasing alcohol from bottle shops."

In the Northern Territory, where alcohol consumption is almost twice the national average, supermarkets have been forced to take drastic measures. Photos shared by news.com.au show sanitiser locked inside cupboards along with Listerine and vanilla essence. On the open shelves, Listerine "Zero Alcohol" is the only option, an Alice Springs local told the publication.

"There have been discussions around vanilla essence which has a very high alcohol content and has been used by underage people who drink," Professor Laslett said. "Hand sanitiser is so dangerous as well."

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