Potential Biden administration changes to alcohol consumption recommendations spark backlash

 August 27, 2023

The Biden administration's alcohol czar recently hinted at a possible downward adjustment to recommended weekly consumption limits, and according to the Washington Examiner, the news has not gone down well with industry leaders and others.

Controversy over the issue erupted last week when George Koob, director of the National Institute on Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) informed the Daily Mail that the United States may adopt Candian-inspired guidance when it comes to the consumption of alcohol.

Koob explained to the outlet that he was keeping a close eye on Canada's shift toward a recommendation of just two drinks per person, per week, suggesting that America could well follow suit, moving away from current guidance, which provides that women may safely indulge in up to one bottle of beer, glass of wine, or shot of spirits daily, while men can opt for two.

Speaking of the “big experiment” north of the border, Koob said, “If there's health benefits, I think people will start to re-evaluate where we're at.”

Pressed on what he believes future American guideline changes could entail, Koob said, “I mean, they're not going to go up, I'm pretty sure. So, if [consumption guidelines] go in any direction, it would be toward Canada.”

Koob went on to posit that with regard to physical health, “no benefits” come from consuming alcohol, though he did admit to personally enjoying a couple of glasses of white wine every week.

Unsurprisingly, as the Examiner notes, representatives of the alcoholic beverage industry are bristling at the very thought of the type of changes Koob floated.

Amanda Berger, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council posted her reaction on social media, writing, “It is extremely alarming and inappropriate for a federal official to predetermine the outcome of the Dietary Guidelines and suggest changing decades of precedent without the benefit of the scientific review to support such a sweeping move.”

Berger was not the only one expressing doubts about the wisdom of changes along the lines suggested by Koob, as the Mail further noted.

Health sciences expert Dr. Dan Malleck of Canada's Brock University observed, “Alcohol infuses many lives in many positive ways.”

Malleck went on, “We celebrate accomplishments, mark occasions, bring wine to parties, meeting with friends, commiserate, relax, blow off steam...these are important activities and part of the texture and tone of many lives.”

The Mail pointed out that there are also those who believe that studies about alcohol risks are inherently hampered by their failure to examine the potentially positive social effects of drinking among non-alcoholics.

Also taking a critical tone in response to Koob's prediction was Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), who lamented, as Fox News noted, “Biden's beer czar has no business advising 'guidance' on alcohol consumption. This is who Democrats are. They want to control every aspect of your life.”

The government is currently in the midst of reviewing potential changes to the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025 to 2030, and the new draft is not anticipated to emerge until late 2025, leaving plenty of time for debate and criticism on this particularly controversial possibility.