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WBA Reception

On 14/02/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

Brewers throughout the world take a very serious approach to social responsibility and in particular in their continuing efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. Debate surrounding the effects of alcohol consumption rages continuously. However, despite a growing weight of scientific evidence suggesting that the moderate consumption of alcohol does indeed carry significant, net benefit in terms of reducing overall mortality risk, the latest WHO report on cancer risk ignores this research, claiming that all alcohol consumption is harmful.

This claim has now been heavily criticised by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research. WHO is also currently discussing with member countries the extent to which they engage with the private sector in policy development, due to concerns around conflict of interest. However, without industry involvement there is, of course, a risk of important considerations not being heard.

With this in mind, the city of Geneva set the stage on Monday evening for an event hosted by the Worldwide Brewers Alliance (WBA). The event demonstrated why brewers should remain a vital stakeholder in policy developments regarding the harmful use of alcohol; and how to strengthen economic development and trade. The centrepiece of the event was a beer and food pairing session which aimed to challenge some existing preconceptions around beer and enable the industry to showcase the range, diversity and relatively low alcohol content of beer.

WBA Chairman and BBPA Policy Director, Andy Tighe, introduced the WBA, which represents the worlds brewing trade associations and whose members account for 90 per cent of global beer production. In his speech to an audience including a number of ambassadors and other senior representatives to the WHO and WTO from around the world, Andy not only reiterated brewers commitment to reducing the harmful use of alcohol but also the significant economic impact from the global brewing industry - including a $500 billion contribution to the global economy and 14 million employees.

Representatives from the major brewers and individual trade associations were present throughout the evening and attendees were also able to see a demonstration of the WBA's global social responsibility initiatives. These initiatives are available to view through an online database.

However, perhaps the greatest challenge on the evening was the perception of beer and in particular its place as a natural accompaniment to food. As the BBPA's beer sommelier, I was invited by the WBA to explore this with the assembled guests. A concept which all those attending embraced fully, once they were aware of the diversity of beer's flavours and characteristics. The importance of the natural ingredients used in its production was illustrated perfectly through the wide variety of beers from around the world that were supplied by the WBA members for the evening.

The range of beer styles available (including a non-alcoholic beer from the Feldschlösschen Brewery) also enabled me to highlight beer’s relatively low alcohol strength, its nutritional composition and how popular preconceptions surrounding glassware and volume need to be challenged when considering beer as a pairing for food.

Finally, after guiding the assembled throng through the five specially chosen beer and food matches for the night, the challenge was laid down to the audience to take their new found skills and more fully explore further beer pairings with other dishes prepared by the restaurant kitchen.

All in all, a successful and enjoyable evening that yet again highlighted the flexibility and diversity of beer. It also carried a message of the importance for the brewing sector to remain fully engaged in the debate surrounding key global, regional and local challenges related to the reduction of harmful use of alcohol as well as promoting sustainable, economic global development.


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