•Nigerian Breweries campaigns against alcohol abuse, wins SERA award
By Rita Ejesieme
It was an eventful night recently at the Social Enterprise Report and Awards (SERA) held in Lagos. Among individuals and organisations garlanded at the ceremony was Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc, which was named the Best Company in Responsible Consumption and Production in 2016.
At the event, the company was hailed as a socially responsible corporate organisation with a good track record of corporate social initiatives. Many at the event asserted that NB was honoured for pushing for responsible consumption of beer.
Managing Director, NB Plc, Nicolaas Vervelde, said the company’s corporate social responsibility was driven by a vision to always “win with Nigeria.”
It was not the first time that Nigerian Breweries would be winning the award. Two years ago, the company was also named the overall winner, Most Socially Responsible Company in Nigeria. That year, NB won four awards, including Best Company in Infrastructure, Best Company in Supply Chain, CSR Practitioner of the Year and the Overall Best Company in CSR.
For years now, NB has mounted a campaign across the country, preaching responsible beer consumption. The company insists that moderation in beer drinking is actually safe and good for the body, while indulgence in undue alcoholism is a harmful venture.
This year, the firm again lined up a group of experts, microbiologists, dieticians, nutritionists, medical doctors, sociologists and other scientists, to tutor participants at the Nigerian Beer Symposium on the benefits of responsible beer drinking. At the event, which took place at the Latana Hall, Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos, were eminent personalities drawn from Nigeria’s social, political and academic circles.
In his welcome address at the event, Vervelde noted that the objective of the Nigerian Beer Symposium was always to highlight and share contemporary knowledge on beer.
Former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, was chairman of this year’s event. He explained that beer plays a significant role in the sustenance of good health and cultural cohesion; beer, he said, is low in carbohydrates just at it is as natural as orange juice and milk.
“Beer has no need for preservatives because of the alcohol and hops, both of which are natural preservatives. The only processing beer undergoes is the same as with bread, it is cooked and fermented, filtered and packaged,” he said.
Duke asserted that beer has no fat or cholesterol, adding that when taken in moderation, it can tilt high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol rations in the right direction.
“HDL are the good cholesterols that protect your veins while LDL is the bad kind that builds up in your veins. Beer actually flushes the system and can boost the HDL by up to 4 per cent with just a single beer a day,” the former governor explained.
In his paper, Professor Innocent Ujah, Director-General of the Nigerian Medical Research Council, Lagos, said moderate consumption of alcohol was associated with a decreased risk of cardiac disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus.
The professor of obstetrics and gynecology, explained that brewer’s yeast was a rich source of nutrients, which means that beer contained significant amounts of nutrients. These, he noted, include magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, biotin and chromium.
Advertising guru, Mr. Ted Mukoro, asserted that beer was the least alcoholic of all alcoholic beverages as well as the healthiest and most nutritious. In his words, like all enjoyable and exciting things made by nature, alcohol, sex, sports, dancing and many others could be irresponsibly abused or overused.
“Nothing enjoyable is bad until put to the wrong use,” he posited.
At last year’s edition of the symposium, Mrs. Dolapo Coker, a nutritionist and food technology expert, asserted that moderate beer intake could positively impact the health and wellbeing of women.
Coker, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, however, warned that alcohol abuse could negatively impact on the health of women. She noted that alcohol could directly interact with organ-systems such as the brain, liver and gastro intestinal system, when it is ingested and transported through the blood.
Coker averred that, although beer was an alcoholic beverage, it could actually be classified as food because of its nutrients. These, she said, include carbohydrates, like dextrins and polysaccharides, proteins, in the form of amino acids, Vitamins B, Vitamin C, folic acid, minerals like magnesium, potassium, silicon, selenium, as well as fibre, especially betaglucans and others.
In his turn, Dr. Henk Hendricks, a biologist and project leader in the Institute for Food and Nutrition in The Netherlands, said moderate beer intake was beneficial to cardiovascular health. He listed some of the advantages of beer as low percentage of alcohol, playing a good role in rehydration, having large quantities of water, being a good source of minerals and polyphenolic antioxidants, having anti-inflammatory xanthohumoles, and possessing a variety of raw materials, including gluten-free fibres.
Chairman of the conference, Professor Emevwo Biakolo, of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, emphasised that moderate beer intake in the elderly appeared to be associated with significantly longer survival in men aged 60 to 74 years and in all elderly women. “There is evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with better cognitive function in old age,” he submitted.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that 60 grams of alcohol per day should be the maximum. For a beer of 5 per cent alcohol by volume, which equates to approximately 4 per cent alcohol by weight, this means that about 1.5 litres should be the maximum daily limit.
Also, recently, the eighth edition of the “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign was launched in Lagos. The campaign is sponsored annually by NB, in partnership with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
Announcing the commencement of the campaign in Lagos, the organisation said there was need to intensify efforts on responsible consumption of alcohol for a safer society.
Daily Sun gathered that the company has also collaborated with about 12 global alcohol businesses in key areas such as underage drinking, marketing code of practices, consumer information and product innovation, drink-driving and retailer support.
In 2014, NB and the FRSC organised the “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign in four states, with about 1,080 commercial drivers participating. Reporst say that NB has in the past six years, collaborated with the FRSC, using the instrumentality of communication to change the drivers’ behaviour towards alcohol consumption. It has also collaborated with the International Centre for Alcohol Policy (ICAP) while doing an evaluation of previous enlightenment programmes.
It was gathered that some stakeholders in the beer industry are not comfortable with the Nigerian Breweries’ campaign against the abuse of beer consumption. In the views of such persons, educating the public on the risk associated with such abuse might be counter-productive.
But NB has insisted that human decisions should be based on the knowledge of their environment, products and services. The company said it would continue to advocate moderation by presenting the health risks of excessive intake of alcohol while also promoting the good side of healthy living with regard to beer consumption.