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Trade reacts to government's publication of CMO's new drink guidelines

Published:  26 August, 2016

Yesterday the government published the UK Chief Medical Officers' Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, which reflected the new moderate drinking guidelines that were introduced in January of this year.

Yesterday the government published the UK Chief Medical Officers'  Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, which reflected the new moderate drinking guidelines that were introduced in January of this year.

The guidelines recommend that a weekly limit for both men and women to be 14 units. Despite opposition to the guidelines as being too severe by many in the drinks trade, the guidelines moved forward as proposed following consultation period.

Three independent groups met over a three and half year period to review the evidence that was presented to help develop the guidelines.  The last updated to these guidelines were made in 1995.

Many in the drinks industry fear the new guidelines do not put the risks of moderate drinking in context to other risks people engage in their daily lives such as driving or watching television.

Denis O'Flynn, the managing director of Pernod Ricard UK said: "While we welcome the clarification that responsible drinking has a similar level of risk as other day-to-day activities, it is concerning that there is still a reference to ' a no safe level of alcohol' in these guidelines which does not take international and domestic evidence into account. This will have significant ramifications with regards to our voluntary and proactive approach as per the Responsibility Deal and we will have to reconsider how we communicate to our consumers."

The Responsibility Deal is a collective pledge many drinks companies committed to fostering a culture of responsible drinking.  Overall drinking consumption has declined by nearly 20% over the past decade.

Miles Beale the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: "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." 

Further Beale points out that the guidelines could lead to more confusion among those that do drink.

He 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."

Henry Ashworth, the chief executive of the watchdog Portman Group, who's role is to promote responsible drinking, agreed that the new guidelines may lead to more confusion and that the message of 'no safe level of drinking' is regrettable.

Ashworth said: "Although the CMOs have provided much needed clarity that responsible drinking carries a level of risk no greater than other day-to-day activities, it is regrettable that the guidelines still include a reference to the Guidelines Development Group's 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. Placed alongside low risk guidelines it will render the CMOs' advice confusing and contradictory for consumers."