BDA urges government to stay the course on energy drink ban04 December 2018
The British Dietetic Association has today urged the UK government to push on with its proposals to ban energy drink sales to children, as the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee publishes the findings of the inquiry into the issue, concluding that action should be taken to reduce energy drink intake amongst children.
The report recognises that societal concerns about the impact of these drinks, in particular from parents and teachers, justify the proposal for a ban. Disappointingly however, the report states that quantitative evidence does not clearlyindicate a causal link between energy drink consumption and harm to health in children and therefore urge the government to pursue more independent research before implementing a ban. Quantitative research on children and caffeine consumption is difficult to perform on ethical grounds and therefore awaiting more evidence could significantly delay action in this important area.
The BDA strongly believes the precautionary principle should apply, given that there is good qualitative evidence of the negative impact of excessive caffeine consumption on mental and physical health, and also of the high levels of consumption of energy drinks amongst children. Energy drinks are already required by law to be labelled as “unsuitable for children”.
Andy Burman, BDA Chief Executive said: “The committee’s report states that children consume caffeine from a range of sources, including tea, coffee and other soft drinks. As far as we are concerned, this is beside the point; high consumption of caffeine from any source is not appropriate for children.
“We believe the evidence shows that energy drinks, because of both their high per-unit caffeine content, appealing flavours and child-friendly marketing, are a particular area of concern. We strongly urge the government to stay the course with its proposals to introduce a ban on energy drink sales to under-18s.”
Dr Amelia Lake, a dietitian and Associate Director for Fuse, The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health at Teesside University, who gave evidence to the committee said: “Our review of the evidence demonstrates that the use of energy drinks by children and young people is associated with a number of adverse outcomes and health-damaging behaviours.
“These drinks are the fastest growing sector of the soft drinks industry, they are low cost and they are widely available. The manufacturers label on these drinks says that they are not suitable for children. There is little evidence of their positive effects. The associations are clear and the industry labelling is clear, these drinks are not suitable for children and have no role in a healthy, balanced diet.”
The BDA welcomes the report’s recognition that energy drink marketing campaigns continue to be specifically appealing to children, despite claims to the contrary by industry. Examples include sponsorship of a talent programme for extreme sports stars aged 13-21, and collaborations with computer game titles popular with children and adolescents.
Note to editor:
- The Commons’ Science and Technology Committee report can be found here: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/news-parliament-2017/energy-drinks-children-report-published-17-19/
- The Department of Health and Social Care is currently consulting on a ban on energy drinks for children. Read the BDA’s response here: https://www.bda.uk.com/improvinghealth/yourhealth/consultation_documents/energy_drinks_ban.pdf
- The BDA was one of a number of organisations to give oral evidence to the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into energy drinks in June 2018. Full details of that evidence can be found here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/energy-drinks/written/81170.html
- Read the BDA’s written evidence submitted to the committee here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/energy-drinks/written/81170.html
 The EU, in Consumer Information Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, requires the labelling of beverages with an added caffeine content of more than 150 mg/litre