No ‘safe level’ of drinking says UK government

The UK Government has agreed to lower the recommended level of alcohol consumption to just 14 units per week following a consultation on a report put forward by the UK’s chief medical officer earlier this year.

Beers-featureLed by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies and published in January, the draft report claimed that any amount of drinking increases the risk of a range of cancers and that there was “no safe level” of drinking.

The report lowered the recommended intake for men by seven units to the same level as women – just 14 units per week – which equates to around six pints of 4% strength beer or six 175ml glasses of 13% abv wine.

Yesterday, the government formally accepted the new guidelines following a public consultation on Davies’ report. While the units remain unchanged, and includes a warning that “there is no safe drinking level”, the language has been toned down to acknowledge that alcohol plays a key part in the social lives of many, but maintains that such activity still carries a degree of risk.

It said drinking within moderation posed no greater risk than other “everyday activities”, for example driving, “that people understand are not completely safe yet still undertake”, reiterating that there was no safe level of drinking and that it was “safest” to not to drink more than 14 units a week.

Previous NHS guidance, published in 1995, advised that men should not drink any more than three to four units a day – up to 21 units a week – while women should not drink more than two to three units a day, or up to 14 units a week.

Confirming the changes, the government said the revised guidelines were intended “not to prevent those who want to drink alcohol from doing so,” but to provide people with information to help navigate potential risks and make decisions about their consumption.

However the drinks trade has already voiced its concern over the proposed changes, which have today become firm.

Reacting to the changes this morning Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA said: “It is widely recognised that moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol is compatible with a healthy lifestyle and carries a degree of risk comparable with many other day to day activities.

“Rather than inform the consumer these revised guidelines will only serve to confuse. The revised guidelines also completely fail to take account of the reduction in alcohol consumption in the UK, which has seen a decline of nearly a fifth in the last decade.

“We will reflect and consult our members on our position in response to the publication of the consultation response today. “

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of The Portman Group, which oversees the promotion of responsible drinking in the UK by the trade, said that it was “regrettable” that the guidelines still make reference to the view that there is “no safe level of drinking”.

“This message has been consistently advocated by Guidelines Development Group members with widely-reported temperance interests and ignores international and domestic evidence”, said Ashworth.

“Placed alongside low risk guidelines it will render the CMOs’ advice confusing and contradictory for consumers.”

To demonstrate the risk of moderate drinking, The Portman Group has produced an infographic (see below), which shows that eating two bacon sandwiches a week is more dangerous to your health than drinking up to 14 units of alcohol per week.

The UK is now one  of just six countries in the world that recommend the same levels of alcohol intake for both men and women.

risk-in-context

The risk of drinking alcohol in context, by The Portman Group

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Events & Admin Assistant

The Drinks Business
London SE1, UK

Brand Manager - Key Wine Partners

MMI Dubai
Dubai - United Arab Emirates

Business Development Manager

Bashall Spirits
Lancashire, UK

Territory Manager - London​

Cadrona Distillery
London, UK

Business Development Manager

Lucozade Ribena Suntory
UK

Customer Marketing Manager

Bibendum
London NW1, UK

Export Assistant Co-ordinator - Maternity Cover

Speciality Drinks
Whitby Avenue, London NW10 7SF, UK

Customer Services Administrator - On Trade

Speciality Drinks
Whitby Avenue, London NW10 7SF, UK

Fruit Focus 2019

East Malling,United Kingdom
17th Jul 2019

International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show

San Francisco,USA
23rd Jul 2019

The Wine Show Chelsea 2019

London,United Kingdom
18th Oct 2019
Click to view more

The Tuscan Masters 2019

Deadline : 1st July 2019

The Global Grenache Masters 2019

Deadline : 5th July 2019

Click to view more

The Global Riesling Masters 2018

View Results

Global Chardonnay Masters 2018

View Results

Click to view more