Energy drinks have long been criticised for high levels of caffeine and sugar, and their appeal to children and adolescents.
In Norway, increased consumption has sparked the interest of consumer rights body, the Consumer Council. “The ever-increasing consumption of energy drinks in children and adolescents is perceived as a real problem throughout the population,” said the Council’s vice president Gunstein Instefjord in a statement.
According to the results of a 2018 survey, available here in Norwegian, half the respondents believed age limit bans should be introduced for the sale of energy drinks to under-18s.
Two out of five said that a statutory limit of 16-years-of-age should be implemented, and a majority stated that energy drinks should be placed in a separate aisle to mineral water.
“The survey shows that all sections of the population see the consequences of high-caffeinated energy drinks having taken a strong hold [in] large groups of children and young people,” Instefjord continued.
Energy Drink Europe
According to Energy Drinks Europe, a sales ban on energy drinks would be arbitrary, discriminatory and not effective.
“A better approach is for governments to ensure a fact-based discussion rather than proposals based on conjecture,” Energy Drink Europe secretary general Andreas Kadi told FoodNavigator.
“Effective measures to address caffeine intake - from all sources - would include portion control and serving size reductions.”
Currently in Norway, some retail stores have implemented voluntary age limit bans. However, the Consumer Council, which led the survey, highlighted the importance of establishing a blanket rule for all. “This will make the workday easier for those who sell energy drinks, who will then not have to take different trade-offs when young people..buy,” said Instefjord.
Norway’s Ministry of Health and Care Services will consider ways in which it can protect children and adolescents from excessive energy drink consumption later this year. “The Consumer Council has expectations that the health authorities will meet the social challenge with good and effective measures in 2019,” Instefjord added.
With sugar content of around 10 teaspoons – almost the daily maximum limit for children – and caffeine content comparable to a cup of coffee, awareness of potential health risks associated with energy drink consumption is spreading across Europe.
Indeed, EU legislation requires drinks with more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre to state ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’.
While voluntary age bans exist in a number of countries, Lithuania and Latvia have implemented bans on energy drinks to under-18s, and in Sweden, some energy drinks are restricted to sale in pharmacies and cannot be sold to under-15s.
The UK investigated a similar approach in its proposal to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16 years of age. If approved, the legislation would prevent all retailers from selling drinks with more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre to children. The government is currently analysing responses to its consultation, which closed 21 November 2018.