Latvia to ban energy drink sales to under 18s

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Advertisements will also be subject to restrictions such as obligatory health warnings on the dangers of excessive consumption. © / dk_photos
Advertisements will also be subject to restrictions such as obligatory health warnings on the dangers of excessive consumption. © / dk_photos

Related tags Energy drinks Caffeine Energy drink functional beverage beverage

Latvia will follow in the footsteps of its Baltic neighbour by banning the sale of energy drinks to under 18s – something the country’s advertising association has called anti-EU.

The draft law​ is set to come into force from June 1st​ and require retailers to check the age of anyone wanting to buy so called energy drinks - defined as a drink with more than 150 mg added caffeine per litre as well as ingredients like taurine, inositol, Guarana alkaloids or ginkgo.

Schools and colleges will also be barred from selling the caffeinated drinks.

Advertisements will be subject to restrictions such as obligatory health warnings on the dangers of excessive consumption and a ban on sponsorship of sporting events or association with alcohol.

The law follows a similar move by its neighbouring country Lithuania​, which announced a ban on sales to under 18s in 2014.

However, the Latvian Advertising Association (Biedrība Latvijas Reklāmas asociācija) lashed out​ at the initiative, claiming such restrictions were contrary to EU’s fundamental principles of free trade and would jeopardise Latvian competiveness in that only Latvian-registered advertisers would be covered.

The association has sent a letter to the Latvian government urging it to reconsider.

It also suggested the aim of the policy – improving public health – would not be achieved in this way and highlighted the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) caffeine risk assessment​published last year, which concluded up to 400 mg of caffeine a day and 200 mg in a single dose was safe for a general adult population.

Meanwhile consumer group Foodwatch – a long-time proponent of an EU-wide ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 18s – welcomed the law.

Setting a good example? 

Press officer Andreas Winkler told us Lithuania and Latvia had set a good example, which the rest of Europe should follow.

“For precautionary health protection, urgent action is needed,”​ he told us.

“Foodwatch is demanding a general sales ban on energy shots. In addition, conventional energy drinks should have a clear warning on the packaging and should be available for sale only to people who are 18 years of age and over.”

Under the European food labelling regulation Food Information to Consumers (FIC), supplements, foods and drinks with added caffeine content over 150 mg per litre must clearly carry the front-of-pack warning: "High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women." 

Foodwatch argues that if the products aren’t intended for children, as the warning suggests, they should not be sold to this vulnerable population.
Trade association Energy Drinks Europe (EDE) has repeatedly said the average energy drink contains caffeine content comparable to a cup of coffee. 

"Children have enough energy already. Energy drinks are not intended for children. Therefore, EDE members have voluntarily committed not to place any advertisements targeted at children,"​ it writes on its website while referencing the FIC regulation and EFSA's safety opinion. 

EFSA’s risk assessment was criticised by the likes of Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)​, which said the opinion did not account for chronic consumption coupled with things like binge drinking and therefore ignored the reality of energy drink consumption for many young people.  

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