Drinkers are being advised to have two alcohol-free days per week as calls come for MPs to review current guidelines around alcohol consumption.
According to a report released by the Science and Technology Committee today, more effort needs to be made to help people understand the current guidelines around units and what constitutes 'safe' limits around the consumption of alcohol.
Andrew Miller MP, chair of the committee, said although public understanding of how to use the guidelines, which recommend the consumption of no more than four units a day for men and three units a day for women, was improving, it was still poor with many still unsure what one unit of alcohol actually looks like.
"Alcohol guidelines are a crucial tool for Government in its effort to combat excessive and problematic drinking. It is vital that they are up-to date and that people know how to use them," he said.
"While we urge the UK health departments to re-evaluate the guidelines more thoroughly, the evidence we received suggests that the guidelines should not be increased and that people should be advised to take at least two drink-free days a week."
Work with drinks industry on unit content
The report also recommended that the Government conduct an interim assessment of its work with the drinks industry to include alcohol unit information and drinking guidelines on 80 per cent of alcoholic products. Through the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the aim had been to do this by December 2013, but the recommendation is ensure a review is done of the work by the end of 2012.
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association, the UK organisation for the wine and spirit industry welcomed the news.
"People want simple, consistent advice on how to drink responsibly," said spokesman Gavin Partington. "We welcome the recognition by the committee of the important role the alcohol industry has to play in communicating sensible drinking messages.
"Through our commitment to the Responsibility Deal, the vast majority of alcohol labels on UK shelves will contain responsible drinking guidelines by 2013, supported by point-of-sale information in both the on-and-off trades."
'Sensible limits' and health
Official alcohol guidelines were last drawn up in 1987, when 'sensible limits' for drinking were defined as 21 units of alcohol a week for men and 14 for women. However, the recommendations changed to daily consumption rates by the early 1990s following the release of scientific evidence suggesting that alcohol consumption might reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
However, in the report released today, the committee said there was a lack of 'expert consensus' over the health benefits of alcohol for all adults.