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New ‘safe drinking’ limits are rocky road to prohibition

The 2017 Good Beer Guide says the move to restrict drinking to no more than 14 units a week for men and women is bad science.

“This is the rocky road to Prohibition,” the Guide’s editor, Roger Protz, says. “I’m glad that in August the government rowed back on the recommendations from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and said moderate drinking imposed no greater health risk than driving a car. But the Government still supports 14 units a week and says they are based on good science when the opposite is the case.

“It appears that the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, was heavily influenced by the Institute for Alcohol Studies, which is funded by the Alliance House Foundation, whose former name was the UK Temperance Alliance. The alliance grew out of the temperance movement in the United States that campaigned for prohibition in the 20th century.

“Professor Davies also took evidence from the Alcohol Health Alliance that claims alcohol consumption has increased in the UK in recent years. This claim contradicts official figures compiled by HM Revenue & Customs – which collects the taxes and duties levied on alcohol – that show that sales in the UK have fallen by close to 20 per cent over the past decade.”

The Guide – this year sponsored by real ale quality assessor Cask Marque –  argues that the new recommended limits are out of kilter with many other countries. The limits in Ireland and Denmark are 21 units, 25 units in the United States and Canada, and 34 units in Spain. “Are the Spanish a nation of falling-down drunks?” Protz asks. “On the contrary: we are advised to adopt their healthy Mediterranean diet, which includes wine and beer.”

He criticised Professor Davies for saying that when she is offered a glass of wine she thinks “cancer”. He points out that evidence from the School of Public Health at Harvard University in the U.S., the American Stroke Association, Tufts University in Massachusetts, and the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland, indicates that the moderate consumption of beer can protect drinkers against strokes, diabetes, heart attacks, dementia, gall stones and bone disease.

The American Chemical Society is conducting research into the natural chemicals present in the hop plant that could be key ingredient in the fight against cancer.

Roger Protz points to further evidence of falling levels of alcohol abuse from the Local Alcohol Profile for England in June that revealed that hospital admissions for under 18s had fallen by half for women by 42 per cent since 2008/9. Admissions for people under the age of 40 fell by 12.5 per cent over the past five years.

“The Good Beer Guide urges people to drink sensibly and moderately – and to do their drinking in company in the pub. But the restrictions urged by the medical officers are taking us on the road to Prohibition. Men used to be told to drink no more than 21 units a week. Now it’s 14 units. What will the advice be in a few years’ time: no units at all?

“All the real scientific evidence shows that moderate beer drinking can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. We should listen to the experts – not the kill-joys of the Temperance movement.”