Yukon halts warning labels on liquor labels over industry concerns
WHITEHORSE — Concerns from national alcohol companies have prompted the Yukon Liquor Corp., to stop putting warning labels about the risk of cancer on all bottles and cans sold in the Whitehorse liquor store, at least for now.
The corporation was the first in Canada to roll out new labels in the store in November as part of the federally funded Northern Territories Alcohol Study. The warning labels make a link between alcohol use and cancer risk and encourages moderate drinking.
“There’s a large range of concerns,” liquor corporation spokeswoman Patch Groenewegen said about the alcohol industry’s response.
They centre around “legislative authority, label placement and trademark infringement, defamation and damages related to messages on labels affixed to brand-owner products without consent,” she said.
Groenewegen declined to identify the national brand owners that have approached the corporation with concerns.
“We’ve stopped applying labels to any new products coming into the store,” she said about a decision that was made this week.
Labels will remain on bottles and cans that are already on the shelves.
The liquor corporation is working with the national brand owners and facilitators of the Northern Territories Alcohol Study to determine next steps, Groenewegen said.
The label phase of the study was intended to run for eight months, followed by a survey to assess the impact.
Concerns have also been raised at the local level about the study’s impact on long-standing labels that read: “Warning, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects.”
The liquor corporation has been attaching these labels to bottles and cans since 1991 but stopped doing so in the Whitehorse store in November when the study involving the new labels was launched.
Wenda Bradley, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, said she believed that the new labels would accompany, rather than replace, the drinking-while-pregnant warning labels.
When Bradley realized that was not the case, she approached the liquor corporation and said officials were open to discussion.
“(Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) needs to be a focus,” she said. “It’s a lifespan disability.”
Groenewegen said the liquor corporation is working with the society as it determines the future of the study involving the new labels.
“As we continue these discussions, we’re also going to make sure we include (the society’s) priorities … and what to do with labels in general,” she said.
The drinking-while-pregnant warning labels continue to be applied to alcohol containers at the five other liquor corporation stores across Yukon.