Call for age restrictions on energy drinks

Child drinking energy drink

Calls are growing for an age restriction on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s, with Jamie Oliver joining parents, unions and academics in voicing concerns over their negative health impacts

As part of Jamie Oliver's ongoing campaign to combat diet-related disease, he is calling on the government to put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s. He joins parents, academics, the National Education Union (the largest education union) and teachers from Educating Yorkshire and Educating Essex to call for government action on this issue.

The main reason behind this call is that the label on every energy drink can specifically says 'not recommended for children', yet 69% of adolescents and 24% of children under 10 are drinking them in the UK.

Many schools have banned these drinks, but there is growing concern that bans in schools aren't enough. A study commissioned by the Scottish government found that 41% of 13- to 15-year-olds buy a sugary drink, including fizzy drinks and energy drinks, off-site at lunchtime, despite bans inside the school gates.

The energy drink industry is literally telling us their products are 'not recommended for children'

Jamie Oliver says, “If the energy drink industry is literally telling us their products are 'not recommended for children' on the cans, why can kids as young as 10 buy them whenever they want? This consumption is compromising our kids, and our teachers, too – we have to do something about it. We urgently need the government to step up and put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to all under-16s.”

Dr Amelia Lake, Associate Director of Fuse: the Centre for Translational Research in
Public Health, says, “Our review of the evidence has clearly shown these energy drinks are harmful for under-18s. Their consumption is associated with a range of negative effects and unhealthy behaviours, including physical health complaints, such as headaches, palpitations and insomnia, and higher rates of alcohol, smoking and drug use.”

Evidence used to show the detrimental impact of energy drinks on a child's health:

  • Energy drinks contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar – more than twice the maximum daily intake for adults.
  • 12% of UK children under 11 are drinking a 1 litre bottle in a single session.
  • Young people in the UK consume more energy drinks on average than their EU counterparts (3.1 litres per month, compared with 2 litres).
  • Many brands of energy drinks contain 160mg of caffeine per 500ml – a 10-year-old should not consume more than 99mg per day.
  • Energy drinks retail for as little as 25p.
  • Sales of energy drinks rose 155% between 2006 and 2014.

What Mumsnetters have to say

“There needs to be an age limit on energy drinks like these. Working in a supermarket, I get annoyed that I am not allowed to refuse the sale to young children, despite the fact that it is stated on the can that they are unsuitable for children.”

“My 14-year-old regularly buys energy drinks. He knows that I don't approve of this as he is physically too immature to handle the amount of caffeine in them.”

“Occasionally I've drunk them when I've needed caffeine as I don't drink coffee/tea, but it makes me jittery, and I'm a full grown adult – no way children should be drinking it!”

“If they were banned, would they consume coffee on the same level they currently consume energy drinks though?”