French food safety agency ANSES recommends that the nation stop drinking energy drinks together with alcohol and during physical exercise due to the risk of adverse effects from caffeine.
Noting the emergence of government policies in countries such as Canada, US, Lithuania, etc. to regulate energy drinks*, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) also calls for limits on energy drink advertising in the report ‘Evaluation of risks tied to the consumption of ‘energy drinks’’.
This is specifically in the context of advertising aimed at vulnerable groups (children, teenagers, etc.) and in the context of festive or sporting events when the agency says that consumption involves ‘special risk’.
Despite caffeine’s long history of use worldwide, ANSES notes – in the wide-ranging 195-page report that took it over a year to compile - that its use in energy drinks is changing consumption patterns, particularly among children and adolescents with little exposure thereto before.
‘Risk situations’ have emerged
Statistics show that in Europe 3% of children and 8% of adolescents consume energy drinks more than 4-5 times per week, while 25% of French energy drink consumers sometimes drink more than 500ml in one day.
National agency ANSES also warns about consumption in new contexts, given that 32% of French energy drink consumers drink the beverages in bars, nightclubs, at concerts or other events.
41% do so in association with sporting activities and 16% do so while drinking alcohol, ANSES notes, in the report that saw the agency consult scientific literature, health professionals, health agencies in other countries and industry itself, via both trade bodies and Red Bull.
Judging that the growing number of caffeine sources, coupled with current French consumption patterns, can generate ‘risk situations’, ANSES recommends that consumers to stop drinking ‘so-called’ energy drinks in combination with alcohol or during physical exercise.
Caffeine vigilance essential
The agency also warns pregnant women and nursing mothers, children and adolescents, those sensitive to caffeine, those with cardiovascular, psychiatric and neurological problems, as well as those with kidney failure or serious liver diseases, to be “particularly vigilant” regarding their caffeine intake.
Warning all consumers to moderate consumption of caffeinated drinks, ANSES calls on health professionals to question patients about energy drink use when they display symptoms of tachycardia, high blood pressure or convulsions, to try and determine the level of caffeine consumed.
Health professionals, especially doctors, are also urged to continue to report any new cases of suspected adverse effects linked to energy drinks to ANSES.
Cardiac arrest risk
In June 2012, the agency asked health professionals to notify it of cases of suspected adverse effects related to energy drink consumption, with 212 sufficiently well documented to form part of the new risk assessment.
ANSES links energy drinks to the onset of the following symptoms in 12% of cases reported: cardiovascular (chest tightness or pain, tachycardia, high blood pressure, arrhythmia leading to cardiac arrest) and psycho-behavioral or neurological problems.
“Because of their composition, these beverages have a stimulating effect which, when associated with certain other behaviors (alcohol consumption, sport) can give rise to serious cardiac events in consumers with common genetic predispositions which frequently go undiagnosed (1 individual in 1000),” ANSES warns.
*ANSES defines energy drinks as sodas fortified with substances not already present in food – caffeine, guarana, taurine, vitamins, ginseng, etc. – and works upon the basis that a 250ml energy drink contains (on average) slightly more caffeine than two cans of Coke.
The full report is available online , but only in French.