The Government announced plans to ban the sale of the product to children, as part of its aim to reduce childhood obesity and other health problems in children. The proposals are currently under consultation until 21 November.
The consultation includes questions on whether the restrictions should apply to children under 16 or under 18 and whether the law should be changed to prevent children from buying them in any situation. It also includes questions on whether sales of energy drinks from vending machines should be restricted.
While most retailers have welcomed the proposals, trade body Energy Drinks Europe (EDE) questioned the need for a ban on the product.
It said: “A 250ml can of energy drink typically contains 80mg of caffeine, about the same as a cup of coffee, and the same amount of sugar as in the same-sized apple juice, orange juice or conventional soft drink (27g). For all ages, there are much greater contributors of caffeine and sugar in the diet than energy drinks.
“A sales ban on energy drinks is therefore arbitrary, discriminatory and not effective.”
The EDE suggested that collaboration would be a better alternative to prohibition.
“A better approach is to work with Government to ensure a fact-based discussion rather than proposals based on conjecture. Effective measures would include portion control and serving size reductions.”
The British Soft Drinks Association, on the other hand, welcomed the consultation.
“This announcement by Government endorses our Code of Practice which has been in place for many years,” said a spokesman. “Our members do not market or promote energy drinks to under-16s, nor do they sample products with this age group. In addition, energy drinks carry an advisory note stating: ‘Not recommended for children’.
“We would like to see the responsible sale of energy drinks and are keen to work with Government and retailers to achieve this – in line with and in the spirit of our own Code of Practice.”
Earlier this year, several retailers decided they would ban the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16.
According to Kantar Worldpanel, under-16s accounted for 6.5% of consumption occasions in home/carried out-of-home for energy drinks in 2017. The Department of Health has claimed that more than two-thirds of 10- to 17-year-olds and a quarter of six- to nine-year-olds consume energy drinks.
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “We all have a responsibility to protect children from products that are damaging to their health and education, and we know that drinks packed to the brim with caffeine, and often sugar, are becoming a common fixture of their diet.
“Our teenagers already consume 50% more of these drinks than their European counterparts, and teachers have made worrying links between energy drinks and poor behaviour in the classroom. We are asking the public for their views on the matter, to ensure energy drinks are not being excessively consumed by children.”