Ireland should ban sale of energy drinks to children

By June Shannon Policy News   |   30th Aug 2018

Ireland should follow England’s lead to ban energy drink sales to children

Ireland should follow the UK Government’s lead in moving towards banning the sale of energy drinks to children, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

Commenting on the news today (30 August, 2018) that the UK government is seeking views from the public on ending the sale of energy drinks to children and young people in England, Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundations said, “By recognising that energy drinks are not suitable for children as a result of their high sugar and caffeine content, the UK Government is being proactive in promoting children’s health.”

“It is now time for the Irish Government to follow suit. Indeed, alongside a future report on reformulation and reformulation targets for the industry, this measure must be advanced,” she added.

The consultation currently underway in Britain proposes banning the sale of drinks that contain more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to children.

“It is now time for the Irish Government to follow suit,"

Kathryn Reilly, Advocacy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

Additional questions in the 12-week public consultation include, whether the restrictions should apply to children under 16 or under 18 and whether the law should be changed to prevent children from buying these energy drinks in any situation.

Energy drinks are already banned for sale to children in the UK by many major retailers, but children can still buy them from vending machines and many independent convenience stores, for example.

A 250ml can of energy drink can contains around 80mg of caffeine – the equivalent of nearly 3 cans of cola. On average, non-diet energy drinks also contain 60% more calories and 65% more sugar than other, regular soft drinks.

The plans were first announced in June this year as well as a commitment to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030.

Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges this country faces, and that’s why we are taking significant action to reduce the amounts of sugar consumed by young people and to help families make healthier choices.”

A 250ml can of energy drink can contains around 80mg of caffeine – the equivalent of nearly 3 cans of cola

.

A 2016 report by Safefood into Energy Drinks in Ireland found that energy drinks and sports drinks now comprise more than 20 per cent of the soft drinks market in Ireland.

It also found that a typical small 250ml can contains 6 teaspoons of sugar per can which is equivalent to a full chocolate bar and the caffeine content of the (80mg caffeine) is the same as 1.5 bottles (500ml) standard cola or 2 (200ml) cups of tea.

According to Safefood, the high caffeine content of these drinks means that drinking two small cans and one small espresso of coffee drives an adult’s daily caffeine intake above recommended levels.
Since 2014 legislation is in place to state that energy drinks with caffeine content greater than 150mg/l are labelled as unsuitable for children and pregnant and breast-feeding women.

"Energy drinks can contain around seven teaspoons of sugar in one 250ml can,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

Sarah Noone, expert dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation welcomed the prospect of the UK government taking action on the ban of energy drink sales to children as a measure to tackle childhood obesity and improve children’s health.

“Energy drinks are very high in sugar and these additional calories with no nutritional value can lead to unwanted weight gain and potentially contribute to increasing levels of childhood obesity seen in Ireland. Energy drinks can contain around seven teaspoons of sugar in one 250ml can. WHO guidelines recommend a maximum of 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for 6-11-year olds and a maximum of 5 teaspoons for 4-6 year olds. It would be difficult to eat seven teaspoons of sugar off a spoon, but it’s very easy to drink seven teaspoons of sugar in the form of an energy drink. What makes energy drinks more problematic is that they often come in larger volumes than the typical sugar sweetened drinks, with many coming in 500ml cans compared to the usual 330ml can of sugar sweetened drink.

“With regards the caffeine content in energy drinks we know there is inadequate evidence to decide a safe level of caffeine intake for children and adolescents as it wouldn’t be ethical for scientists to study the consequence of caffeine on children in a research setting. Children and young people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and can have an exaggerated response to caffeine as they will be less used to it compared to adults. So, avoiding energy drinks is sensible to help to limit their consumption of caffeine,” Sarah added.

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caffeine childhood obesity children Energy drinks uk

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