UK government likely to ban sales of caffeine-rich energy drinks to under 16's

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The UK looks set to ban the sale of energy drinks high in caffeine to children after a Department of Health consultation lays bare the link to headaches, hyperactivity and obesity.

According to national media​, Matt Hancock, the UK’s Health Secretary announced his intentions to colleagues of a possible age limit on the products high in caffeine as well as sugar.

In leaked documents, Hancock said, “Following a high level of interest in the consultation, we plan on announcing that we will be ending the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16”.

He added he was “taking a precautionary approach to mitigate the potential negative effects associated with their excessive consumption by children”.

Department of Health consultation

The Health Secretary was referring to the Department of Health’s consultation, which invited industry bodies, retailers, parents, health professionals and teachers to submit their views on a proposed ban.

It also asked for views on what products should be included in any restrictions, what age limit a ban should apply to and whether sales of energy drinks from vending machines should be restricted.

The consultation, which closed in November last year, also asked if whether there were any changes that would be more appropriate than a ban or that could be applied as well as a ban.

Many larger retailers and supermarkets in the UK have voluntarily stopped selling energy drinks to under-16s. However, many retailers continue to sell these drinks to children.

EFSA guidance

Current guidance by The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) points to a safe level of three milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight per day for habitual caffeine consumption by children and adolescents.

However, one 250 millilitre (ml) can of energy drink can contain 80mg of caffeine, similar to a strong cup of coffee or close to three cans of cola.  Some energy drinks can contain 65% more sugar than other soft drinks.

The current situation in Europe concerning the control of energy drink sales is mixed with countries like Lithuania and Latvia already introduced a ban on energy drinks sales to under-18s. Other countries around the world are also looking at potential restrictions.

Further analysis by EFSA​ found that two-thirds of 10 to 16-year-olds regularly consume energy drinks, along with 18% of three to 10-years-olds.

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