UK launches inquiry into energy drinks

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

UK launches inquiry into energy drinks
A government committee has launched an inquiry into the consumption of energy drinks, after a study found that young people in the UK consume more energy drinks than any other European country.

A report from EFSA found that 68% of young people aged 10-18 consume energy drinks; as do 18% of children aged 3-10 years old.

Consumption of energy drinks among young people in the UK has increased 185% between 2006 and 2015, making them the top consumers of energy drinks in Europe, according to the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

Caffeine, sugar and children

Energy drinks have long come under fire for high levels of caffeine and sugar, particularly given that they often appeal to children and adolescents.

In some cases, caffeine consumption guidelines for children can be exceeded by a single can of energy drinks, according to a Durham University study.

Meanwhile, an average energy drink contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar, almost the daily maximum limit for children.

EU legislation requires drinks with more than 150mg caffeine per liter to state: ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’. 

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) also sets out further voluntary measures, such as including the statement ‘consume moderately’. 

Earlier this year celebrity chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver called on the government to ban sales of energy drinks to U16s;​ while some retailers such as Waitrose have introduced their own restrictions on selling energy drinks to children.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is welcoming written submissions addressing consumption of energy drinks, particularly with regards to the potential physical and mental health effects of energy drinks on children and young adults; how marketing affects consumption; potential further controls and regulations; and where responsibility and accountability for that should lie.  

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “We know that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age. We need to understand how the caffeine and sugar in energy drinks might cause negative health outcomes. Meanwhile, some retailers have chosen to ban their sale, and some have not.

“Should it be for retailers to decide which products can be sold on health grounds? Our inquiry will consider the evidence and set out what needs to be done by the Government, the industry and others.”

More information on the inquiry can be found here.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Energy & Sports

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