For the first time in 15 years, officials from the Department of Health will review the current guidelines on how much alcohol is safe to drink amid fears that the existing daily limit implies wrongly that drinking alcohol daily is healthy.
The new guidelines could include recommendations of spending two days per week free from alcohol.
The guidance was last reviewed in 1995 when concerns were raised about how the weekly “sensible limits” that were in place at the time could encourage binge drinking. Critics now say that the switch to a daily guideline falsely created an impression that drinking every day is healthy.
Recent statistics reveal that 19% of men and 12% of women regularly drink over twice the daily recommended limit and are classed as “binge drinkers”.
The Department of Health is considering a thorough review of the evidence on alcohol and associated health risks after hearing sufficient concerns from experts.
The current limits advise men to drink no more than two to three units per day, and women a lesser quantity of two to three units. The guidelines are being criticised for failing to highlight the importance of having regular drink-free days.
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, is considering introducing bespoke guidelines to apply to certain groups, such as older people, who may be more susceptible to the dangers of alcohol. Separate guidelines for pregnant women and younger people have already been produced.
Scottish guidelines already advise that people should abstain from drinking alcohol for at least two days per week and a panel of MPs recommended in a report published earlier this year that the rest of Britain should follow suit and advise the same. They also demanded clearer guidance on what constitutes “binge drinking”.