Travelling west from Europe towards the international date line stretches out the day ahead. It also takes you back in time. Back to a time when public health officials seem to have worried less about what constitutes a safe amount to drink.
In Chile and the United States, the recommended day limit for “low-risk“ alcohol consumption is roughly double the new British limit. For men that means it is considered safe to drink the equivalent of seven British glasses of wine a day in Los Angeles or Santiago; for women, five. For everyone it means it's hard to know whom to believe.
There are two obvious explanations for this wide gap, apart from simple new-world indifference. One is lobbying. Can it be coincidence that in the domestic American market on which Napa Valley depends for its comfortable existence (having prized itself out of Europe), doctors can airily let you to drink the whole bottle as long you're not driving.
This explanation holds, oddly, for schnapps and Austria, where a standard drink is said to contain more than twice as much alcohol as in Britain; but not for tequila and Mexico, which shares with most of Europe a cautiously low weekly recommended maximum. The other explanation is more worrying. It is that scientists, who purport to know what's good for us, do not. “Someone's got to be wrong,“ as Keith Humphreys, of Stanford University, tells The Times. “Or everyone could be wrong.“
Professor Humphreys is the lead author of a study that finds no useful agreement among 37 countries as to what counts as a drink, or drunk. Britain's Institute for Alcohol Studies says sternly that the more indulgent countries are using out-dated data. What no one seems to have measured is the health benefit of drinking more and worrying less.
Fazit: Das mit dem sicheren Standardmaß ist so eine Sache.