MPs have launched an investigation into energy drinks and their popularity with young people in the UK, amid growing concerns about negative health outcomes due to their high caffeine and sugar content.
The Commons science and technology committee will question why, when most UK supermarkets have introduced a voluntary ban on their sale to under-16s, there are no similar restrictions in many convenience stores, newsagents and smaller retailers.
Evidence is being invited on the potential physical and mental health effects of energy drinks on children and young adults, as well as how marketing affects consumption – for example through big brands’ sponsorship of gaming.
Drinks such as Red Bull, Relentless, Monster Energy and Rock star are now more popular with children and teenagers than with adults, even though EU labelling guidelines state that any soft drink with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre must carry a warning about its high caffeine content and is not recommended for children.
A study carried out by the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health found that young people in Britain consume more energy drinks than those in other European countries, with consumption in the UK soaring by 185% between 2006 and 2015. In addition, a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that 68% of children aged 10-18 and 18% of those aged three to 10 regularly drank them.
The EFSA estimates that an adult can consume up to 200mg of caffeine without adverse health impacts. A Food Research Collaboration study has highlighted that the EFSA’s guideline limit for children is exceeded by drinking a single can of some branded drinks.
“We know that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age,” said the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, chair of the science and technology committee. “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.”
Adapted from: Brief Report