Energy drinks, should children be allowed to buy them?

HEALTH RISK: Energy Drinks have high amounts of caffeine and sugar.
HEALTH RISK: Energy Drinks have high amounts of caffeine and sugar.

The UK Government is looking into banning the sale of high-sugar energy drinks to children. 

Heart Foundation NT health director Breanna Ellis said high-sugar energy drinks have a big impact on children’s health. 

“From tooth decay, to obesity and increasing their risk of chronic disease like heart disease – there is no place for sugary drinks in a child’s diet,” Ms Ellis said.

The Australian Beverages Council opposes suggestions of restrictions on sales to children.  

Instead the organisation is pushing for self-regulation and education, which they say is highly successful. 

According to the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care website, energy drinks that contains over 150mg of caffeine per litre require a ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’ warning label. 

Children are not getting the message. 

Ms Ellis said high-sugar energy drinks have a big impact on children’s health.

“Even drinks that have labels that sound positive like ‘energy’ or ‘sports’ drinks are really loaded up with sugar and have the added ingredient of caffeine which the average child simply does not need.”

The Australian Beverages Council says all members involved in the manufacture or distribution of energy drinks have already voluntarily agreed to:

  1. not direct any marketing and advertising activities at children;
  2. not sell energy drinks in primary or secondary schools;
  3. not promote excessive consumption;
  4. not market energy drinks as only providing hydration;
  5. not use labelling to promote the mixing of energy drinks with alcoholic beverages;
  6. not manufacture or sell energy shots;
  7. provide consumers with up-to-date information about energy drinks on the ABCL website.

Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker said the UK’s decision to look into banning the sale of energy drinks is “for the wrong reason”. 

Ms Ellis said The Heart Foundation is concerned about the increasing rate of childhood obesity and the clear links between the consumption of high-sugar energy drinks. 

She said while a blanket ban could be difficult to implement, something needs to be done. 

“These drinks have no nutritional value and are full of kilojoules so having them as a daily part of a child’s diet is affecting their hearts and overall health. 

“It is interesting [a ban] is being considered in another country and we will watch to see the impacts of this,” said Ms Ellis.

“But something needs to be done as more than half of the daily sugar intake by Australians is coming from soft drinks which includes energy drinks.”

Ms Ellis said a health levy on energy drinks would be helpful in discouraging people from purchasing these drinks and would also encourage industry reformulation. 

“Funds raised from the levy could then be directed into a national obesity strategy which would include measures to educate and support children and their families to think about drinking water first rather than reaching for the soft drink. 

“At a community level, stores could also consider replacing some of their sugary drinks for sale with water or healthier drinks.

“At the recent Barunga Festival the community decided to ban the sale of sugary drinks for the three days of the festival, that was a great initiative and a good example of changes that can be made at a local level.”