A Commons Select Committe will review the evidence behind the recommended guidelines for alcohol. The move has been welcomed by both health and industry groups in order to strengthen the evidence base - scepticism over the validity of the guidelines has been continually questioned since the first introduction of weekly guidelines in 1987.
News reports speculated it could lead to a relaxing of the guidelines based on other European levels (as featured here). However a recent Royal College of Psychiatrists report called for lower guidelines for older people. See press coverage in the Telegraph and Independent.
The guidelines currently advise adults not to regularly exceed:
- Men: 3-4 units per day
- Women: 2-3 units per day
Daily guidelines replaced a weekly message of 21 units per week for men and 14 for women, reportedly changed to prevent people from 'saving them up'. However critics have suggested that daily guidelines falsely infer daily drinking is safe and that guidance of at least two alcohol free days is overlooked. Alcohol free days are considered important to reduce the risk of dependency and health problems.
Other issues have been highlighted in relation to units - a recent survey suggested only 42% of adults could correctly equate units to certain drinks. This has been in part attributed to the increasing strength of alcohol and larger servings. For instance a 250 ml glass of 13% wine would have 3.3 units and a pint of 5.2% lager 3 units. A single 25 ml measure of spirits is 1 unit, but many premises serve 35 ml servings and home measures are likely to be more.
Further industry-led activity to raise unit awareness is expected following commitments outlined in the Responsibility Deal, including 'clear unit labelling on over 80% of alcohol by 2013'. However the Deals have been controversial with key health groups withdrawing and a recent report that 'nudge' approaches alone are not enough.