New UK healthy drinking guidelines receive mixed welcome from industry

08 January, 2016

The government’s new guidelines on healthy drinking, published today, have met with a mixed reception from the drinks industry.

The new recommendations from the government’s chief medical officer bring the “safe” limit for men’s weekly alcohol consumption in line with women’s for the first time.

Both sexes are now recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, the equivalent of around six pints of beer or nine small glasses of wine.

Even with that low level of consumption, the government is advising that drinking is spread across the week, rather than saved up for one night’s drinking.

Several drink-free days per week are advised.

Pregnant women should no longer consider it safe to drink any alcohol at all.

It is the first time the government’s advice on alcohol consumption has been revised in twenty years.

Dame Sally Davies, the goverment’s chief medical officer and author of the report, said: “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said: "We welcome these new alcohol guidelines which will help people make better choices about their drinking.

“Our own research suggests that aside from the well-known impacts on the liver, broader alcohol-related health risks such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer are not commonly understood by many people.

“We will support the chief medical officers in communicating the new advice through our website and resources as soon as is practically possible.”

However, Henry Ashworth,  chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “The vast majority of us - more than four in five adults – drink within the current lower risk guidelines.

“The UK is breaking with established international precedent by recommending the same guidelines for men and women.

“UK men are now being advised to drink significantly less than their European counterparts.”

In a strongly worded statement, Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, said: "Twenty years after the original guidelines were issued, and following a two year wait, we are surprised that the guidelines are expected to take effect immediately.

“Given the significant progress made voluntarily through the Responsibility Deal we are disappointed that the industry has not been involved.

“We look forward to talking to government about the changes, the evidence and guidelines in due course. 

“Importantly, changes to the guidelines will not automatically lead to changes in consumer behaviour.”

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