Health bodies resign from “charade” of EU alcohol forum

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 03 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3040
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

More than 20 public health organisations have resigned from the European Union’s Alcohol and Health Forum after expressing deep concern that the interests of the alcohol industry have been prioritised over public health.

The forum includes representatives from the alcohol industry, as well as public health experts and non-governmental organisations. In an open letter to the EU commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the signatories expressed their deep concern over a lack of plans to develop a comprehensive European alcohol strategy despite repeated calls from public health bodies and non-governmental organisations.

Organisations including Eurocare (the European Alcohol Policy Alliance), the European Public Health Alliance, the Royal College of Physicians, and the Standing Committee of European Doctors tendered their collective resignation from the forum.

The letter said there was no evidence that the forum had had any effect on public health. Also, no evidence showed that voluntary commitments from the alcohol industry had led to reductions in alcohol harm, it added. The letter also expressed concern at the lack of a formal structure available to public health bodies to discuss evidence for effective alcohol policy in the absence of vested interest groups.

At a meeting on 18 May, Andriukaitis said that there were no plans to develop a new EU alcohol strategy and that alcohol would instead be incorporated within a wider framework for non-communicable diseases. But the letter said that this approach would fail to tackle the many harms caused by alcohol, such as crime, violence, domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, and road traffic accidents.

Ian Gilmore, chair of the EU Alcohol and Health Forum’s science group, said, “This is a sad day for those who care about health in Europe. The Commission’s prioritisation of alcohol industry interests over public health has been laid bare. Many non-governmental organisations have participated actively and in good faith in the EU Alcohol and Health Forum, in the hope of making progress and reducing alcohol harm.

“However, with no evidence to indicate the forum has achieved any meaningful results, and no promise of a new alcohol strategy, we see no alternative to walking away from this failing organisation.”

Nina Renshaw, secretary general of the European Public Health Alliance, said, “The forum has proved worse than useless, a free PR front for the industry. The Commission even endorses the industry introducing drinking culture to young kids by promoting ‘responsible’ drinking in primary schools. The health community had to call time on this charade.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3040

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