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Evidence-based policy high on the global beer agenda

On 24/10/13 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Would doctors really ever recommend alcohol to patients?

This was one of the many questions considered at the Worldwide Brewing Alliance annual meeting that took place last week in the USA. The question formed part of a major research proposal presented by the NIAAA. The proposal was to undertake a definitive study over a number of years to establish whether there is a causal link between regular moderate alcohol consumption and reduced cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Brewing trade association and global brewer representatives from across the world met in Philadelphia to discuss this, beer and health more generally, forward engagement with global institutions and the key policy and regulatory issues on the agenda at national level. Examples of proactive industry activity to address current threats in markets such as the USA, New Zealand and Korea were also showcased.

A particularly interesting session focussed on the evidence base for the so called ‘best buys’ (higher taxes, advertising bans and restricted availability) advocated by NGOs and many public health professionals as the most cost effective way to tackle the harmful use of alcohol. These were considered alongside alternative, more targeted interventions aimed specifically at harmful consumption that do not risk disproportionately impacting moderate drinkers. Despite many studies and programmes in relation to both approaches, proper evaluation of the robustness of findings and the effectiveness of particular programmes remains somewhat lacking. Indeed, survey design and conclusions are often flawed in a number of ways. It was agreed that a proposal for an ‘Evidence Summit’ should be worked up.

The need for robust, consistent and authoritative statistics was also highlighted. It was agreed that it was necessary to update the global economic contribution estimates first undertaken three years ago by the WBA – although, of course the international section of the BBPA Statistical Handbook also provides a useful resource for brewing associations across the world.

In all, a fascinating day and a half made even better by the generous and warm hospitality of our hosts the Beer Institute who made sure we had also had time to enjoy some great beer and food pairings in a great city.


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