Alcohol guidelines were drawn up by anti-alcohol lobbyists

30 May, 2016

Pressure is building on the Department of Health to revise controversial guidelines limiting alcohol consumption to 14 units after it was revealed that anti-alcohol lobbyists played a large role in setting them.

The panel that devised the guidelines included four members of the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), a lobby group bankrolled by the temperance movement.

Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance and the most vocal anti-alcohol campaigner in the UK, also sat on the panel.

One of the four IAS members on the panel was Petra Meier, of Sheffield University, whose controversial department has performed studies that formed the basis of efforts to introduce minimum unit pricing in Britain – research the trade discredited.

The new guidance was published in February, when chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies warned that every time you reach for a glass of wine you should consider that it raises your risk of cancer.

The Department of Health has refused to revise the advice, but Graham Stringer, a Labour member of the Commons science and technology committee, told The Times of London that the role of anti-alcohol lobbyists drawing alcohol guidelines was “a serious cause for concern”.

He added that it would have “the perverse effect” of leading to the public distrusting Government health announcements.

Former health secretary Lord Lansley added: “What’s important is that the guidelines and the way they are presented are something in which the public can put confidence.

“There’s no point in trying to scare the public – they must be presented with good quality information on a high quality evidence base.

“We must make people aware of what constitutes harmful levels of alcohol abuse. There are people who want to treat alcohol like tobacco – but it’s not like tobacco.”

The Royal Statistical Society also attacked the guidelines for promoting statistically unjustified advice that would induce fear among the public, running counter to the aim of giving people an informed choice. 

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