Legal threats have scuppered hopes for the resumption of a Canadian trial of labels warning that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer, putting a question mark over plans to inform consumers elsewhere.
Ireland and Australia are both considering labels warning that alcohol increases the risk of cancer, with Ireland’s lower house debating the move this week.
The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health proposed labels last month which include a warning that alcohol is proven to increase the risk of cancer (left). Alcohol producers quietly lowered their voluntary labelling standard last year.
The Canadian study was abruptly halted at the end of December after receiving a range of legal threats, including that it might be guilty of defamation and trademark infringement. Experts say those seeking to obstruct cancer labelling have a wide range of legal options.
The legal threats have not stopped the evaluation of labels not mentioning the increased cancer risk of drinking alcohol: one showing a standard drink size and another the low-risk drinking guidelines. Results are expected in June.
The trial is part of the second phase of the Northern Territories Alcohol Study led by researchers from Public Health Ontario and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria.
Yukon’s 34,000 people have the highest alcohol sales per head in Canada. ■