The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a consultation on whether children should be able to purchase energy drinks.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on August 30, 2018

The consultation gives respondents the option of saying the sale energy drinks should be banned to those under 16, or those under 18.

Energy drinks have become hugely popular in recent years but there has been some widespread concern over the high levels of sugar and caffeine found in many of the drinks. Excessive consumption of the drinks has been linked to obesity, sleeplessness, irritation and headaches. There is also concern the drinks are addictive and lead to dependence.

UK law provides that any drink (except tea or coffee) that contains more than 150mg of caffeine per litre must carry a label that reads ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’.

Despite these warnings, the drinks are popular with a young demographic with two-thirds of UK children aged 10-17 and nearly a quarter of 6-9 years old regularly consuming energy drinks.

Energy drinks have been linked to anxiety, obesity, irritability

Earlier in 2018, conservative MP Maria Caulfield called on Prime Minister Theresa May to prohibit children buying energy drinks. One of Caulfield’s constituents had consumed 15 energy drinks a day before taking his own life.

In Question Time, Caulfield said the young man’s family felt his energy drink consumption “increased his anxiety and contributed to his death”.

A number of retailers, including Waitrose, have already voluntarily placed aged checks on those buying the drinks. The drinks are also caught by the UK’s sugar tax on soft drinks, which came into force on 6 April.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said the drinks offer no nutritional value at all. “It’s therefore worrying that so many young people are buying these drinks at low prices and consuming them on a regular basis.”

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said UK children consume more than 50% more of the drinks than their European peers and this consumption has led to children being irritable during school.

“We all have a responsibility to protect children from products that are damaging to their health and education,” he said. “We know that drinks packed to the brim with caffeine, and often sugar, are becoming a common fixture of their diet.”

Brine has banned his own children from drinking energy drinks.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for a ban on energy drinks. “These drinks are not fit for kids and are affecting not only them negatively but also classrooms around the country,” he said.

“This is a great move for better child health but also a great move to support our teachers to help kids learn.”

The public consultation will be open until 21 November 2018.