Healthy alcohol limits likely to be increased


Paul Cahalan
Monday 25 July 2011 00:00

Drinkers could soon have an extra glass of wine or pint of beer a week guilt-free, after it was announced that the Government is to review the current advice to the public on safe drinking levels, with the likelihood that the limits would be raised.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee will examine evidence behind current UK guidelines, which state that men should not regularly drink more than four units of alcohol a day, equivalent to two pints of beer, and women should have no more than three units – or a large glass of wine.

The existing advice is based on recommendations from a committee of doctors in 1987 which set the weekly limits of 21 units for men, and 14 units for women. But the review comes as one of the members of the original Royal College of Physicians' working party on the subject admitted that the figures were "plucked out of the air" in the absence of clear evidence about how much alcohol poses a health risk.

Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal and a member of the college's working party on alcohol, said that the committee could find "no decent data" on the subject, but had felt obliged to make recommendations.

MPs will also look at how UK guidelines compare with those provided in other countries. Italy's guidelines allow the equivalent of an extra bottle of wine a week compared with the UK's advice. France, Portugal, New Zealand and Japan allow more than half a bottle extra a week and limits in Spain and Ireland allow almost two glasses more.

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