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Drinking Guidelines and Low Alcohol Beers

On 02/12/16 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

The festive season is fast approaching once again and as ever, hard working folks across the land are steeling themselves for celebrations of all shapes and sizes.

Whether food or drink, one of the inevitable consequences of the party season is some form of excess; guidance can be helpful in encouraging sensible drinking but shouldn’t have to be too prescriptive, and can be provided in a balanced and non-judgemental way.

The role of alcohol guidelines in informing consumers has been something of a hot topic this year. The initial launch of the CMO’s low risk drinking guidance in January certainly raised some issues and concerns.

The UK is not the only country to have recently introduced revised, low risk drinking guidance and when the approach used by the UK CMO’s is placed under the microscope, it does lead one to question whether their method was the best one.

From a recent trip I made to Canada to attend a meeting of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance there are clear, positive outcomes that can be achieved through the use of alcohol guidelines. In Canada, guidance has been developed collaboratively with input from medical, public health and alcohol industry stakeholders. It might even be argued that such collaboration is essential to provide credibility and consistency when educating and informing consumers about sensible drinking.

An important aspect of the approaches discussed in Canada was the concept that modifying behaviour does not always mean stopping drinking altogether, unless of course for medical reasons or based on professional advice. Rather, influencing positive behaviour is instead about encouraging consumers to make intelligent and informed decisions about their drinking habits in any given situation. When to drink or not to drink and in providing the tools that allow consumers to moderate their alcohol intake.

Often overlooked in this approach are the opportunities offered by low alcohol beers and the capacity for such drinks to reduce total alcohol consumption on drinking occasions. Encouraging consumers to consider low alcohol options also works well for the beer category as a lower strength option in relation to the wider alcoholic beverage sector. Both the industry and consumers should be confident that as part of moderate drinking messages, producing lower strength beers can only enhance the brewing industry’s reputation for offering high quality and distinctive products and more significantly, choice and diversity to consumers.


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