MADD Canada pushes for warning labels on alcohol products

Nov 12, 2020

Due to increased alcohol consumption during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the non-profit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada (MADD) is calling on Canada’s Health Minister, The Honourable Patty Hajdu, to include warning labels on alcohol products.

According to the results of a poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), Canadian adults under the age of 54 have been consuming more alcohol since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the results of the poll revealed that 25% of Canadians aged between 35 and 54 years of age report increasing the amount of alcohol they consume while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 21% of Canadians aged between 18 and 34 years report the same.

Other reports and studies have also demonstrated an increase in Canadians’ alcohol consumption during the ongoing pandemic, including a study carried out by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the results of which showed that 23.3% of respondents reported consuming more alcohol during the pandemic.

“Given the reported increase in alcohol consumption by Canadians, it is time for Health Canada to require warning labels on alcohol products to ensure consumers are aware of the health and safety risks associated with over-consumption, including impaired driving,” said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. “The labels should also include information about serving size and standard drink size, so people can better measure and monitor their consumption.”

Moreover, MADD Canada has argued that recent changes in alcohol legislation also warrant including warning labels on alcohol products.

Over the course of the pandemic, provinces across Canada implemented different approaches to regulating alcohol sales, while relaxing restrictions during the pandemic. Specifically, most provinces (except P.E.I.) have declared liquor retailers as an essential service. Some cities relaxed restrictions on access to liquor during the pandemic by permitting restaurants to offer alcohol for takeout with take-away food, and reduce the retail markup on liquor sold to restaurants and bars in order to ease the financial burden of the pandemic on the hospitality industry. As well, licensed patios were fast-tracked once restaurants opened following the lockdown.

Furthermore, some municipalities across Canada, including North Vancouver and Port Coquitlam, have introduced pilot projects to allow drinking alcohol at selected local parks and public spaces.

“Most provinces have changed their alcohol policies to allow the sale of alcohol with restaurant take-out and delivery,” said Murie. “With alcohol being more accessible in this way, it is important that consumers have clear and immediate information about the health and public safety considerations.”

In addition, Murie pointed out the current inconsistency with respect to warning labels being required on cannabis products, while no such requirement exists for alcohol products.

“When cannabis was legalized, it was required that packaging contain health and safety information. It is fair and reasonable that the same focus on health and safety be extended to alcohol products,” he said.