Communities in the United States (U.S.) have renewed their call for cancer warning labelling on alcohol products through a citizen’s petition to the Treasury department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau.
The petition asks the bureau to include a new cancer-specific warning on alcohol products. The new wording would read:
“WARNING: According to the Surgeon General, consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers.”
The petition was filed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, in collaboration with the American Public Health Association, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Alcohol Justice and the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance.
Communities have been calling for this change since the surgeon general’s 2016 report documented the link between alcohol consumption and cancers of the breast, oral cavity, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum.
Already in the 1980s science documented unimpeachable evidence that alcohol causes cancer. But regulatory action in the United States, on part of the bureau and the federal government, is still lacking.
Movendi as engine of national conversation about alcohol and cancer
Already in 2015, Movendi International together with local partners in New York and the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance Alcohol started a national conversation about alcohol and cancer. They arranged the first of its kind public event to discuss all aspects of the link between alcohol and cancer, to explore solutions, and to build a coalition to tackle this issue.
The current health warning labeling on alcohol products is outdated and hasn’t changed since Congress passed the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988. However, this act has a provision for future amendments to be made promptly, in consultation with the Surgeon General, if new scientific evidence emerges. And evidence from cancer research has consistently showed alcohol causes cancer. Yet, the labeling has not yet been updated.
It is important to update labeling as American adults currently have low awareness about alcohol’s cancer risk. Updating the labeling is a social justice priority because it allows consumers to understand the risks linked to alcohol consumption.
In light of the strong scientific evidence that consumption of alcohol increases the risk of cancer the agency must act decisively and report to Congress on the need for a label on alcohol stating that consumption may increase the risk of cancer,” stated the petition, as per Medscape.
Such changes have the potential to save lives by ensuring that consumers have a more accurate understanding of the link between alcohol and cancer.”Citizen’s petition to the Treasury department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau regarding updating labeling on alcohol products
Community action for changing the alcohol labeling
The American Institute for Cancer Research has been the leading scientific voice in the cancer prevention community in the United States to address alcohol as major risk factor for cancer. They issued a report on alcohol and colorectal cancer in September 2017 and highlight the lack of public awareness about the link between alcohol use and cancer.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology issued a statement on alcohol and cancer in November 2017.
Movendi International has supported the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance and partners to arrange two symposia in the last five years to accelerate the national conversation about alcohol and cancer and to help promote awareness as well as policy action.
American Cancer Society changed their guidelines last year
The American Cancer Society (ACS) last year updated their guideline for cancer prevention with a stronger statement on alcohol. The new guideline says “it’s best not to drink alcohol”. However it retained the old recommendation that if alcohol is consumed, men should limit their daily intake to two beverages of alcohol and women to one.
The ACS changing their guideline is important as the society has been under the public spotlight for criticism of its corporate relations with the alcohol industry. At the central level, the ACS has not been receiving funds directly from the alcohol industry but their stance on alcohol as cancer risk factor has been weak, up until these new guidelines. For instance, when Movendi International together with the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance and the New York Alcohol Policy Alliance organized the first ever “Alcohol and Cancer Symposium” in the United States, the ACS could not be won over to stand behind the event.
Big Alcohol interference to hide alcohol’s cancer risk
The American Institute for Cancer Research recently criticized the glaring gap of omitting alcohol’s cancer risk in the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The guidelines are released once every five years and form the basis for all federal food and nutrition policies, programs and communications for the coming five years.
The American Institute for Cancer Research criticized the USDA and HHS for bowing to alcohol industry pressure and omitting the evidence-based recommendation of limiting alcohol use to no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for men, which was recommended from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report. Instead the new guidelines have retained the old data that men may consume up to two alcoholic beverages per day.