The distilled truth                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           PT-BR

An open letter in defense of accurate and truthful information to promote moderation in the consumption of alcoholic beverages and equal treatment for the entire sector

In a recent post on social media, the largest entity representing the beer industry in Brazil uses Alcohol Awareness Week to promote surprisingly inaccurate and damaging claims to society, without recognizing their true purpose: to persuade policymakers that beer is somehow a healthier product than other alcoholic beverages, and should therefore receive different treatment, despite the fact that beer is by far the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Brazil. This disinformation movement happens at a decisive moment for the entire alcoholic beverage sector: the regulation of tax reform and the definition of the selective tax rate.

In the spirit of awareness, here is an absolute fact: the harm associated with alcohol consumption has nothing to do with whether a product is fermented or distilled, but rather with the amount of pure alcohol a person consumes, as well as their drinking pattern. This has been proven by numerous scientific reviews, systematically.

Recent data published by KMPG (May/2023) show that Brazilians consume 84 liters of beer per capita per year, versus 4.1 liters of spirits. This means that beer consumption cannot be ruled out of the harmful consequences of over-consumption, including health impacts, traffic accidents, and injuries.

However, breweries in Brazil continue to enjoy very favorable treatment when it comes to taxes and marketing. Between 2014 and 2018, the IPI rate on beer decreased by 60% and is now less than 4%, while cachaça and spirits pay between 16.25% and 19.5%. Marketing, advertising, sales locations and sponsorship restrictions that apply to spirits and wine do not apply to beer. Has anyone ever wondered why such privileges exist?

To support their argument that this discrimination should be preserved and extended, the article makes the claim that “the large amount of sugar present in distilled drinks means that they are absorbed more quickly than fermented drinks such as beer and wine”.

This claim is false and dangerous to consumers. Spirits have less sugar than any other type of alcoholic beverage simply because they are distilled. The sugar, in the distillation process, is not transferred to the final product. On the other hand, fermented beverages have higher sugar content than spirits, as well as tend to have much higher levels of carbohydrates than spirits.

Independentemente disso, a afirmação de que os níveis de açúcar na bebida têm algo a ver com a absorção de álcool é, no mínimo, contestada, e não deve ser apresentada como uma declaração factual dessa maneira.

The author also extrapolates unfounded claims about the type of drink and the risk of addiction based on a single study of a “convenience sample” of 153 patients from a hospital in São Paulo. A study that brought isolated results, more than 15 years ago, whose conclusions have never been repeated in any other scientific instrument. A study in which the researchers offer their thanks to CISA, an organization that receives funding from the brewing industry. This can only be interpreted as disinformation designed to divert attention from the hard work of promoting responsible consumption in all relevant populations to the dangerous demonization of one type of drink. Alcohol is alcohol.

So what would really help raise awareness and empower Brazilians who choose to drink to do so in moderation? The definition of a standard drink! However, in this respect Brazil is unusual in not having this formal definition or recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption in order to avoid excessive consumption. In many countries, this is clearly defined. In the USA, for example, a standard drink represents any drink containing 14 grams of alcohol.

Understanding that “Alcohol is Alcohol” and that a beer (350ml with an alcohol content of 5%) is equivalent to a small glass of wine (150ml with an alcohol content of 12%), which is equivalent to a measure of spirits (40ml with an alcohol content of 40%), is empowering for the consumer, as it allows people to track and monitor their consumption both in a single drinking session and from week to week.

Ending the system that allows beer to be advertised freely while the promotion of other products is banned would also go a long way towards correcting public perceptions. It is also important to take a look at taxation and, in this regard, the WHO, in a publication from December 2023, states that: “further tax increases on inelastic beverages (i.e. beer) should be introduced to reduce consumption to produce the desired impact on public health and generate additional tax revenue”.

If the brewing industry really wants more awareness, less misinformation and better health outcomes for all, it should support sending clearer and more correct signals to alcohol consumers and society in Brazil, such as by supporting the definition of a Standard Drink. Let’s work together to make it happen.


#RightDoses #AlcoholIsAlcohol #Standarddrink #ABBD #IBRAC