Sainsbury’s awaits UK law shift before ban on energy drink sales to kids

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sainsbury’s awaits UK law shift before ban energy drink sales to kids

Related tags: Energy drink, Soft drink, Caffeine

Sainsbury’s suggests it will not follow UK rival Morrison’s lead in banning the sale of energy drinks to children, but said it would follow suit if national laws changed.

A spokeswoman for the UK’s second biggest grocer told “Sainsbury’s works with schools and community groups across the country to support healthy lifestyle choices for children. 

“There are currently no laws about age limits for the sale of energy drinks, but if the government decides this should change we would, of course, comply.”

Morrison’s last week became the first UK supermarket to ban sales of high caffeine energy drinks to kids, in a pilot that will assess consumer demand before a possible nationwide rollout in 2014.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) prescribes that drinks with 150mg+ of caffeine per litre must be labelled ‘high caffeine content’ near the name of the food, plus an indication of the amount of caffeine per 100ml of product.

Monster, Red Bull, Relentless…

The EU Food Information Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 introduced on December 13 2014 will require further labelling for high caffeine foods and drinks when caffeine is added for a physiological effect.

‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’

The UK’s fourth largest grocery retailer Morrisons has gone one step further, requiring some customers to prove they are 16+ before selling them soft drinks – including Red Bull (322mg/liter) Relentless (320mg) and Monster (338mg) – with ‘high caffeine content’.

By contrast, a liter of standard UK Coca-Cola contains only 96mg of caffeine.

Guy Mason, Morrisons head of corporate affairs said the grocer was very aware of concerns among teachers, politicians and parents about the impact of “high-caffeine energy drinks”​ on young people.

“We decided to take a leadership position by running a limited trial across the UK, banning the sale of such drinks to under-16s and giving us the opportunity to listen to the feedback of customers.”

BSDA: Retailers must decide what to do

Although Morrison’s move adds to the media heat felt by energy drink sector, the move by the UK’s retailer is consistent with the soft drinks industry’s own regulations.

Gavin Partington, British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) director general, said: "The BSDA operates a code of practice which says that high caffeine content soft drinks are not suitable for children, and specifies that this information should be clearly stated on the label of such drinks.​ 

“It also states that high caffeine soft drinks should not be promoted or marketed to those under 16. Naturally it’s for retailers to decide what they wish to do,”​ he added.

“We believe our code is the responsible way to ensure parents have the information necessary to decide what is right for their families,”​ Partington said.

A spokesperson for Tesco, the UK’s leading retailer, said:“We do not currently have an age restriction policy on energy drinks.”

Asda had not replied to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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