Health chiefs cut limits on safe drinking

From the Evening Herald:

By Fiona Dillon

Monday June 25 2012

THE recommended weekly alcohol limits for both men and women have been cut by Irish experts.

It is now recommended that men should not drink more than 17 alcohol units over a week. Previously, the limit had been set at 21 units.

Women should not consume more than 11 units of alcohol over a week. The limit was previously 14.

A unit of alcohol is a “rough measure of the drink amount that will provide about 10g of alcohol.

For instance, a half pint of beer, a pub measure of spirits and a small glass of wine,” according to guidelines contained in new document from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).


The FSAI revealed in a new booklet that the weekly limits have been cut by the Department of Health.

Meanwhile, questions have been asked about why two different food pyramids, launched by Health Minister James Reilly, outlining healthy eating guidelines differ in the way they treat the issue of alcohol.

Foods and drinks at the top of the food pyramids should be restricted as they are high in calories.

However, while alcohol is now included on the top shelf of the Department of Health’s pyramid, because of its high calorie content, it does not appear at the top of the FSAI’s one.

Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients’ Association (IPA) said: “”The food pyramid aimed at the public has alcohol at the top of it, but the pyramid for professionals does not.

“I find it very hard to accept that there are two different pyramids being presented. The important thing here is that the messages should be consistent.”

The booklets are Your Guide to Healthy Eating Using The Food Pyramid from the Department of Health, and the FSAI’s booklet is entitled Healthy Eating and Active Living for Adults, Teenagers and Children Over 5 Years – A Food Guide for Health Professionals and Catering Services.

The FSAI’s booklet was developed in conjunction with the Department of Health, the HSE and safefood.


A spokeswoman for the FSAI said that alcohol does not appear on its pyramid “because the FSAI’s booklet is a guide for health professionals, and alcohol is not a food and it is not essential for food intake. The Department’s guide is for consumers.”

Meanwhile, a dietician said that having two pyramids would not cause confusion because health professionals would always know to take alcohol into account when looking at calorie intake.