The Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) is under fire due to a collaboration with beer giant AB InBev. Critics think that the university can be used by the alcohol industry. That is what the journal ‘De Standaard’ writes (12-1-2019). KU Leuven and AB InBev cannot agree on the fundamental conditions of the cooperation. For example, the university requires guarantees about the independence of its researchers and also wants to have a say in communication.
The Flemish Expertise Centre for Alcohol and other Drugs (VAD) criticizes the collaboration between the city of Leuven, the Catholic University of Leuven, the academic hospital and beer producer AB InBev. In June 2018, the four partners launched the “Lazarus” project, which aims to reduce irresponsible alcohol consumption in Leuven by 10% by 2020, through prevention campaigns and research.
“If the industry really means it, they should no longer lobby against harsh measures, such as price increases or supply regulation,” says Marijs Geirnaert (see photo), director of the VAD. “AB InBev has repeatedly asked the VAD to take part in the Lazarus project, which the VAD has always refused.”
Geert Dom, professor of addiction psychiatry at University of Antwerp and chairman of the European Federation of Addiction Societies (EUFAS), joins the criticism of the VAD. “The alcohol industry often tries to set up partnerships to polish its image. I am very hesitant about this. We advise to avoid this interference.”
Chantal Van Audenhove, the vice rector of KU Leuven, says “not to be blind to the dangers of working with the alcohol industry”. Meanwhile, the university is unsecure about the project, because the non-profit organization that had to be set up in order to perpetuate cooperation is still not there.