Health and wellbeing

GOING SOBER FOR OCTOBER

This campaign is being organised by Macmillan Cancer Support, an organisation for which I have immense respect and whose fundraising efforts have, like many charities, been seriously reduced this year. The concept is that you go without alcohol for 14, 21 or the full 31 days and donate the money that you would otherwise have spent on alcohol to Macmillan. You can go a step further and arrange sponsorship to generate a larger amount.

This has it merits, obviously, but it will not help our pubs which have also had a very bad time this year and in many cases are struggling to survive. It would be good to hold fund-raising events of some sort in pubs so that both might benefit, but, alas, this is not currently possible.

Long time readers will have read the following before but I make no apologies for repeating it. Macmillan say ‘Having a break from alcohol has great health benefits, such as having more energy, a clearer head and sleeping better, plus no hangovers!’. This may well be true but, while I’m no medical expert, I have always wondered if the shock to the system of just stopping for a period then starting again at the same level is greater than any benefit achieved. If you are getting the problems listed above then perhaps you should be considering reducing your intake on a long term basis, or at least, as I do, have several alcohol free days each week.

In any event, abstinence from alcohol, temporary or otherwise, does not mean that you need to stay away from the pub. Staying in touch with your friends is important for your mental wellbeing. You need not be restricted to soft drinks. The standard of no and low alcohol beers has improved remarkably over the last couple of years.

These thoughts apply equally to ‘Dry January’. Christmas and the New Year will be vital to the survival of many pubs and the momentum then needs to be maintained.

A POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE

I came across this on CAMRA’s on-line discussion group, Discourse. Instead of going sober for October, why not just concentrate on eating and drinking healthily. Don’t buy takeaways from fast food shops, especially the national chains. You can donate the money that you save from doing that. You can eat at the pub instead, especially where they are continuing the EOTHO scheme. In any event, you can just donate to a cause if you think it is worthwhile. You don’t need a reason.

COUNTING THOSE CALORIES

As part of its campaign against obesity, a health problem not unrelated to COVID-19, the Government announced on 27 July that it will be consulting the hospitality trade on making mandatory changes to the labelling of alcoholic drinks. Specifically, the number of ‘liquid calories’ included in the product will have to be shown on the label or on menus. This will be part of a campaign that includes restrictions on television advertising for certain types of food and stopping ‘two for one’ and similar deals in some fast food restaurants. The requirement for alcohol labelling will, apparently, only apply to businesses that employ more than 250 staff. Smaller operators will simply be encouraged to do so.

According to a report in the trade magazine Drinks Business on 27 July, for some 3.4 million people, alcohol makes up around 10% of their calorie intake, which is equal to an extra’s day’s food a week. The Government believes that most of these people are unaware of this, hence the need to educate them as to the calorie content of most alcoholic drinks. There are already plans for nutritional information to be included on the labels of all beer, wine and spirits sold in the European Union by 2022 but the UK will not, of course, be included in that.

The concept has been opposed by the trade for some time, and, in 2018, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said that while they understood the Government’s agenda on obesity, the majority of Britain’s 50,000 pubs are run as small businesses and that the burden and cost of the labelling, even if it was just on menus, would be considerable. Their current Chief Executive, Emma McClarkin, told the Morning Advertiser that the move could see pubs reduce their food offers.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality (UKH), told the Morning Advertiser, “A well-intentioned targeting of child obesity is at risk of evolving into an interventionist approach that heaps burdens on hospitality businesses just when they are at their most vulnerable and fighting for survival. The most constructive approach to improving public health would be to provide effective and credible tools to allow people to make informed decisions about their lifestyles, nutrition and exercise, from as early an age as possible.”

The plan was welcomed by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, who chairs the Alcohol Health Alliance UK. He said people need to ‘wake up’ to the impact alcohol has on their overall health. He added, “Labelling all alcohol products with prominent health warnings, low risk drinking guidelines, information on ingredients, nutrition and calories would help equip the public with the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions about what and how much they drink.”
Tony Hedger