UK charity Drinkaware has called for new measures to make unit guidelines clearer as it claimed that the majority of adults still aren’t clear about “how to drink in a low risk way.”
An online survey of 1,539 adults conducted by Ipsos MORI at the end of last year found that just over two thirds of the 25-64-year-olds surveyed did not know how many units they can drink without exceeding the lower risk guidelines. Only 32% of women and 31% of men who took part were able to say how many units there are in a glass of wine or pint of beer.
In response to these findings, Drinkaware has recommended three “simple” measures to raise awareness about how much alcohol people can drink before they start harming their health.
These involve enforcing a unit line on all glasses in pubs and restaurants, which would also be told to promote the 125ml serve. Meanwhile retailers would be required to make sure that unit information is included on all bottles and cans of alcohol.
With Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies currently reviewing UK guidelines on alcohol consumption after criticising the “irresponsible” methods used by retailers to sell alcoholic drinks, Drinkaware is calling for a move to make official advice on units easier to understand.
The organisation claims that units have become more difficult to keep track of in recent years as a result of a “significant measure creep” in glass sizes, as well as an increase in wine’s average abv from 8-10% in 1987 to today’s level of 13%.
“It’s clear that the unit guidelines aren’t working,” argued Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware. “It’s not just that most people don’t know them, it’s that they don’t know how to apply the guidelines to the drink in front of them. It’s not surprising when you think how complicated they are.”
Noting in particular that “supersizing alcohol portions isn’t good for any of us,” she continued: “One simple change which could make a real difference would be to take the 125ml wine glass out of hiding.
“Pubs and restaurants are obliged to offer a 125ml serving but most advertise the 175ml serving as a standard size and 250ml as a large. You often have to go to the small print at the bottom of the menu to find out that a 125ml serving is even available and usually it’s not even priced.”
What’s more, Hindal added, “It’s just as bad at home. Our wine glasses have grown. 125ml is basically the size of a small yoghurt pot – if we could use a 125ml glass again for a standard serving of wine it would be a lot easier for people to stay within the guidelines.”
Current government recommendations set by the UK Chief Medical Officer offer the lower risk guideline at a maximum of 2-3 units daily for women, equivalent to a 175ml glass of 13% abv wine, and 3-4 units daily for men, equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% abv beer.