Search
The Caterer

Camra calls for alcohol inquiry after doctors dispute new guidance

24 May 2016 by
Camra calls for alcohol inquiry after doctors dispute new guidance

Six in 10 GPs dispute the Chief Medical Officer's (CMO) statement that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, according to a poll of more than 1,000 doctors conducted for Camra.

That is twice the number of GPs that agreed with the CMO.

The survey also found that 63% of GPs believe moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle, compared with 23% that do not and 10% who were unsure.

The new guidelines, announced in January, have divided opinion. They suggest men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week (down from 21 units for men), while simultaneously suggesting there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption.

Camra questioned whether the new guidelines were fit for purpose and has called for a public inquiry to scrutinise whether the evidence upon which they are based is accurate.

Critics have suggested that such a mixed message from the CMO undermines the recommended consumption limit and may be counterproductive, as people may feel there is little point in limiting intake if no amount at all is safe. It has also been argued that the risk increases from consuming more than recommended limits have not been properly explained.

Camra stated that "numerous scientific studies" that show moderate drinking can be beneficial to health were "ignored in the new alcohol guidelines". However, the new guidelines, based on a two and a half year review of latest evidence by three expert groups, acknowledge there are benefits for heart health, but state that they are "less and apply to a smaller group of the population than previously thought".

They suggest only women over 55 have the potential to have an "overall significant reduction in risk of death".

Nevertheless, Camra's national chairman, Colin Valentine, said that the message that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink was inaccurate, and offered the beer lobby group's own studies as alternative evidence.

"We made the observation when the new guidelines were published that the Chief Medical Officer had ignored evidence which showed that moderate drinking can have a beneficial effect," he said.

"Only recently, we commissioned a report with Oxford University ‘Friends on Tap' which found that those who had a local pub were happier, healthier, and felt more integrated in their communities than those without.

"Furthermore, research has shown that the mortality rate of moderate drinkers is lower than those who abstain altogether."

As such, he said it was "no surprise" most GPs think alcohol can potentially be part of a healthy lifestyle, and called on the Department of Health to launch "a full public consultation into whether the new alcohol health guidelines are fit for purpose and adequately supported by evidence".

The call was welcomed by the British Beer and Pub Association.

"We share concerns that consumers must have confidence in any guidelines and the need to ensure that the reasons for any changes are clearly evidence-based and explained," a spokesperson told The Caterer.

"The new recommendations for men, in particular, put the UK well out of line with other comparable countries, which generally recognise the difference in terms of physiology and metabolism between men and women.

The figures cited by the BBPA tally with statistics compiled by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which also suggests that 38.2% of all alcohol duty collected across the EU is collected by the UK Chancellor, with tax on wine making up 55% of the total cost, and tax on spirits accounting for 75% of the price consumers pay.

In volume terms, year-on-year off trade sales of spirits increased around 3% in in the 12 months to January 2016, according to the WSTA. Conversely, on-trade sales volumes declined 3% in the year to December 2015. That decline was largely due to falling volume sales of beer, which is by far the largest on-trade drinks category.

Meanwhile, further research funded by the alcohol industry may suggest a cultural shift away from heavier drinking is already underway.

A recent survey by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers found that fewer than 10% of young people were going out drinking at least three times a week. It suggested younger people were instead spending more of their disposable income on eating out.

Licensed trade facing a ‘perfect storm' of costs >>

Beer overtakes wine market for first time since 2006 >>

Are you looking for a new role? See all the current hospitality vacancies available with The Caterer Jobs >>

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!