UK – The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a recommendation that slush ice drinks should not be sold to children under the age of four.
A slushy is a type of beverage made of flavored ice and a drink, similar to granitas but with a more liquid composition.
The FSA, responsible for overseeing the food industry in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has stated that glycerol, a substance used to prevent freezing in slush ice cream, can lead to headaches, nausea, and more severe health issues in young children.
The regulatory agency also suggests that retailers avoid providing free refills of slush ice drinks to children under ten years old, as excessive consumption of glycerol should be avoided.
Authorities have cautioned that in cases of very high exposure, particularly when a child consumes multiple products in a short timeframe, glycerol intoxication could result in shock, hypoglycemia, and even loss of consciousness.
The guidance from the FSA is based on a worst-case scenario involving a child consuming a 350 ml slush drink with the highest glycerol content (50,000 mg/L).
This could lead to negative effects if the child’s body weight falls below a certain threshold. The FSA’s assessment takes into account the average weight of children at various ages.
According to the FSA Head of Additives, Adam Hardgrave, “while the symptoms of glycerol intoxication are usually mild, it is important that parents are aware of the risks – particularly at high levels of consumption.”
“It is likely that there is under-reporting of glycerol intoxication, as parents may attribute nausea and headaches to other factors,” he explained.
“We are grateful to those manufacturers who have already taken steps to reduce levels of glycerol and to those who have already told us they will be adopting our new guidelines.
The FSA acknowledges the cooperation of some manufacturers who have already taken measures to reduce glycerol levels in their products and have expressed intent to adhere to the new guidelines.
The agency also emphasizes that it may consider further actions or reevaluation of industry guidelines in the future.
Glycerol is used by manufacturers as a sugar substitute to achieve the slushy texture in ice drinks, but the FSA’s new recommendations encourage businesses to add glycerol only in the minimum necessary quantity to achieve the desired effect.
While glycerol is present in some other foods, its usage is typically at much lower levels than in slush ice drinks, as clarified by the FSA.
The FSA’s stance is supported by two cases in Scotland, occurring in 2021 and 2022, where children were hospitalized due to glycerol intoxication.