Public underestimates risk of alcohol use, says Belgian Superior Health Council

Any consumption of alcohol increases the risk of serious diseases, but the population remains largely unaware of these risks, the Belgian Superior Health Council said on Tuesday. It made a number of recommendations to reduce the harm caused to society by alcohol.

Last year, the World Health Organization concluded that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Even light or moderate consumption increases the risk of serious diseases. The Superior Health Council notes that these risks are not well known in Belgium, partly because of the influence of the alcohol industry on politics.

"The slogans used by the industry today do not sufficiently emphasise the dangers of alcohol consumption and even create confusion," ​ it said on Tuesday. "Because of conflicts of interest, the council is pushing for the industry to have no place in the development of alcohol policy."

Total marketing ban

The council has been advocating a total ban on alcohol marketing and advertising since 2018, saying this is the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.

It also wants to raise the age limit for all alcoholic beverages to 18 years. In Belgium, it is currently legal to drink beer and wine from the age of 16. A minimum price per unit of alcohol should also be introduced. "This means setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol (10 grams of ethanol). Sales below this price would be prohibited," the council said.

The Belgian Brewers association does not agree with the measures proposed, saying that a ban on advertising goes against the unique diversity of Belgian beers.

"The new measures are far-reaching and seriously endanger Belgium's Unesco-recognised beer culture," the association said on Tuesday.



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