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Cancer warning labels will go on alcohol bottles in Ireland — a world first

Aug 06, 2023

Ireland will be the first country in the world to put labels on alcohol bottles warning of its reported risk of causing cancer, along with other health information.

The labels will warn about the risk of consuming alcohol when pregnant and of liver disease and fatal cancers from consumption, as well as calorie counts, the government said in a statement. They will be implemented in three years, by May 2026.

“Packaging of other food and drink products already contains health information and, where appropriate, health warnings,” said Ireland’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, in a statement. “This law is bringing alcohol products into line with that.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), light to moderate drinking levels caused almost 23,000 new cancer cases in 2017, half of which were female breast cancers.

Ireland is to become the first country in the world to introduce comprehensive health warning labels on alcohol products. I’ve signed the regulations so that from May 2026 labels must contain details of calorie content, grams of alcohol and risks of liver disease and cancer.

— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) May 22, 2023

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) updated its guidelines on alcohol consumption in January, now recommending no more than two or less drinks a week, down from two drinks a day recommended in 2011.

“Overwhelming evidence confirms that when it comes to drinking, less alcohol, less consumption means less risk of harm from alcohol,” the new guidance stated.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal called on Health Canada in February to require warning labels on all alcoholic beverages.

“(Consumers) have a right to clear and accessible information about the health and safety of the products they buy,” CCSA said in a statement.

An Ipsos poll in March done for Global News found three-quarters of Canadians say they aren’t changing their drinking habits despite the updated guidelines.

— with files from Saba Aziz