Groups call for cancer warnings on alcohol labels

A number of health organisations in the US have penned a joint letter to the government department that regulates alcohol urging new labelling laws to necessitate cancer warnings.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is seeking to amend the regulations governing the labelling and advertising of wine, spirits and malt beverages to “simplify and clarify” regulatory standards.

As part of the consultation period prior to the laws being amended, stakeholders and organisations can submit their comments to the TTB.

Public health lobbyists and groups have joined together to urge the TTB to “provide a cancer warning on all alcoholic beverages”. The letter comes after some of the signatory groups previously called for the TTB to make labelling of nutritional information mandatory for alcoholic drinks.

The latest letter states: “The available scientific information shows that consuming ‘even one drink per day’ of alcohol increases cancer risk. A ‘modernised’ label for alcoholic beverages should therefore carry a warning that reflects this scientific understanding.”

The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act (ABLA) of 1988 requires that a specific health warning should appear on the labels of all alcoholic drinks containers produced, imported or bottled for sale in the US.

In addition to the warnings about drinking while pregnant or while driving, the groups recommend the following statement is included on labels: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: According to the Surgeon General, consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers.”

According to the health groups, the three warnings (relating to pregnancy, driving/operating heavy machinery and cancer) shouldn’t all appear on a single label at once, and should instead “rotate” to “more effectively capture consumer attention”. They also urge the TTB to require the warnings to be “prominent and conspicuous”.

“In doing so, TTB would increase consumer awareness, and bring alcohol labelling into greater consistency with other hazardous products like tobacco,” the letter states, adding “the proposed warning statement has the potential to greatly improve public health”.

The letter outlines a number of studies that indicate “US consumers do not associate alcohol consumption with increased cancer risk”.

The signatories of the letter were: American Institute for Cancer Research, American Public Health Association, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Charlene Miers Foundation for Cancer Research, Comprehensive Youth Services Inc, Connecticut Public Health Association, Consumer Federation of America, Evanston Health Advisory Council, International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, Smoke-Free Shoals, TEST Incorporated, The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development, and the US Alcohol Policy Alliance.

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