French government new advice: 'Don't drink wine'

  • Friday 20 February 2009

The French wine industry is – once again – up in arms at the government’s latest pronouncement: to stop drinking wine altogether.

The French wine industry is – once again – up in arms at the government’s latest pronouncement: to stop drinking wine altogether.

The Ministry of Health has published guidelines which advise, ‘The consumption of alcohol, and especially wine, is discouraged.’

The advice is drawn from findings by the INCA, the French national cancer institute, which says the consumption of only a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk of mouth and throat cancer by 168%.

INCA president Dominique Maraninchi said, ‘Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you.’

The INCA also says red meat, charcuterie and salt also increase the risk of colon-rectal cancer – by up to 29%.

Roger Corder, professor of experimental therapeutics at the William Harvey Research Institute in London, author of The Wine Diet and an acknowledged expert on the health benefits of wine, said he was ‘surprised’ by the INCA report.

‘It is not based on French statistics but on statistics from around the world. As well as this, it covers all alcohol, not just wine. It is very flawed to base government health advice on such research, which lacks a detailed analysis of the influence, or risk, of drinking patterns for different alcoholic drinks and has at the same time excluded confounders such as poor diet and smoking.’

Citing numerous studies into the health benefits of wine, he said, ‘this is the first time I have seen what amounts to scaremongering about the risks of moderate wine consumption from an organisation that should know the importance of basing health advice on detailed statistical analyses that considers overall risk.

'All large-scale studies have shown that moderate wine drinking is associated with a lower number of deaths from all causes (ie heart disease and cancer).

'Health policy has to manage overall risk in the population so this seems completely unwarranted health advice. What are they suggesting people drink – Coca Cola?’

The wine lobby in France has reacted with outrage. ‘This persecution of wine has to stop, the AGPV (the General Association of Wine Producers) said.

Xavier de Volontat, president of the southern Languedoc wine producers association told Times online, ‘The extremists must not be allowed to take consumers hostage. Wine consumption has dropped bgy 50% over the last 20 years in France, but cancer has increased. You have to admit there is a paradox.

‘We are for responsible, reasonable and moderate consumption. It is not in our interests to see our consumers dying of cancer…’

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