Adults 'consume 550 pints' per year
Irish adults consume the equivalent of almost 550 pints of beer every year, it was claimed today.
A new study showed someone who takes 21 standard alcoholic drinks a week could be downing up to 143 bottles of wine or 50 bottles of vodka per annum.
Health chiefs found that over the last decade stronger alcoholic beverages in larger containers are being sold, meaning people are unknowingly drinking more than recommended.
The HSE study proposed bottles are labelled with clear health warnings in particular for pregnant women and people taking medication, driving or operating machinery.
Catherine Murphy, assistant national director for health promotion, said the report highlights the dramatic expansion in the range and alcohol content of products on the Irish market.
“This, combined with the absence of clear labelling, militates against making healthy choices,” she added.
The strategic task force on alcohol (STFA) revealed the upper weekly limit for alcohol intake in Ireland is based on the UK rate of 14 units for women and 21 units for men.
But experts calculated that while a UK unit is eight grams a standard drink in Ireland - a half glass of beer or small glass of wine - has 10 grams.
They believe drinking guidelines should be lowered to 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men.
The STFA said latest figures also show that on average approximately 21 standard drinks are consumed each week by every adult aged 15 years and older.
“This is a conservative figure given that abstainers are not excluded and represent about 20% of the adult population,” it stated. “Over a year this level of drinking is equivalent to 548 pints or 143 bottles of wine or 51 bottles of vodka per adult.”
Elsewhere the report said many alcohol products on the shelf contain substantial amounts of pure alcohol that are not displayed on labels.
A pint of beer contains was found to have almost 20 grams, a bottle of strong wine over 80 grams, while a small measure of spirits about 10 grams.
A greater range of alcoholic drinks, like alcopops, are also on the market.
Dr Joe Barry, public health consultant, said existing labelling policies prevent consumers knowing how much pure alcohol is contained in various products.
Rosemary Garth, of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), called on Government to bring forward legislation for the provision of unit information and pregnancy advice labels on alcohol products.
However she maintained printing the grams of alcohol contained in a standard drink, rather than the number of units, could be counterproductive and confusing.