Energy drinks to be banned for children
Ministers will ban the sale of Red Bull, Monster Energy and other energy drinks to children in England amid growing concern about the impact of high-caffeine, high-sugar drinks on young people’s health.
A consultation on how to implement the proposed ban will be unveiled on Thursday, with Downing Street indicating that the principal question is whether purchasing restrictions will end at age 16 or 18.
Theresa May said the consultation was linked to the government’s childhood obesity strategy and it was necessary to examine the consumption of energy drinks “often because they are sold at cheaper prices than soft drinks”. The main justification for the ban is the high level of caffeine in energy drinks, which has been linked to health problems for children, including head and stomach aches, as well as hyperactivity and sleep problems.
A 250ml can of Red Bull contains about 80mg of caffeine, roughly the same as a similarly sized cup of coffee, but three times the level of Coca-Cola. Monster Energy, often sold in larger cans of 500ml, has 160mg of caffeine.
Energy drinks often also have higher levels of sugar than soft drinks. According to government figures, sugared energy drinks have 60% more calories and 65% more sugar than normal soft drinks, and sugar is one of the largest causes of obesity. Jamie Oliver, the chef and food health campaigner, welcomed the prospect of a ban on energy drink sales because “too many children are regularly using them to replace breakfast” and “teachers from across the country have told me how their lessons are disrupted because of these drinks, packed with stimulants”. Some major retailers already ban sales of energy drinks to youngsters, but cheap prices in other outlets mean consumption by children in the UK is estimated to be 50% ahead of other EU countries.
Two-thirds of children aged 10 to 17 and a quarter of six- to nine-year-olds consume energy drinks, according to the government announcement.