Government Corrects Alcohol Guidelines — Again

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Canadians who were concerned by the strictness of recently modified alcohol consumption guidelines are getting some relief. The federal government reported in January that individuals should drink no more than 2 standard alcoholic beverages per week in order to minimize risks of negative health effects. A standard drink is defined in the report as a 12 oz. bottle of beer or cider, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or a 1.5 oz. shot of hard alcohol. But the government is now admitting an error in the initial report — it should read 200 per week.

“We apologize profusely for the grief this error has caused Canadians,” said Dr. Maera Elisavet, the report’s lead author. “Drinking is a core part of Canadian culture and we should have shown more respect to that culture when publishing our report.”

Elisavet says the copy editors working on the project — who are paid minimum wage — accidentally dropped the zeros at the end of the recommended consumption level, resulting in the recommendation of 2 per week that Canadians saw. This mistake was not caught during a final review because “2 drinks per week actually seems very reasonable,” said Elisavet.

Adam Ramsay was one of the copy editors involved in the report, and says he and many of his colleagues were fired after the mistake was made. 

“I’m kinda bummed to be out of work, but I’m sure whatever I do for my next job can’t be half as bad as working on this report,” he explained. “They only paid us minimum wage, made us work long hours, and wouldn’t even let me have a quick beer on my lunch break!”

Toronto resident, Greg Ferguson, wrote to CBC News to express his concern when the guidelines were first published. 

“Hearing the original recommendation of 2 drinks per week, I was shocked, quite frankly,” he says. “When I saw the government made a mistake and actually recommended 200 drinks per week, I was so relieved. Now I can drink to my heart’s content and not really have to worry about reaching that limit. 

“When there’s a Seinfeld marathon on TV, I might surpass that, but hey, these are just recommendations, right?”

While Ferguson and other Canadians are relieved, some still believe 200 drinks per week is too limiting. Michael Wheeler, who is a self-proclaimed “drinking enthusiast,” calls the guideline “still completely ridiculous.” He says he and his friends have been hosting drinking contests each week since they met in college in 1987. Participants keep track of their alcohol consumption throughout the week and meet on weekends to compare scores. “I’ll drink three or four hundred beers in a good week,” he bragged. “My buddy, Slimy Jim, once got up to 700, but that was during Shark Week.”

The news is also sparking discussion among Canadians about what other government and medical recommendations might have been made erroneously. Could cigarettes actually be good for one’s health? Are seat belts all they’re cracked up to be? Should we really be brushing our teeth for two minutes each night — or is the quick, ten second version that I do after a long day of writing articles sufficient? 

Only time will tell.

About the Author

By Hale Mahon

Health Editor

Hale is a third year student in Public Administration with a Minor in Psychology. He loves politics and sits on a few boards and committees at York, including the Student Centre Board of Directors, the Student Council for LA&PS, and the university’s academic senate. As health editor, he wants to see how medical and scientific research can inform political and organizational decisions, and believes that well-communicated science can improve outcomes for everyone. Outside of work, he enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, camping, photography, and watching 90’s sitcoms.


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