UK government considers ban on sale of energy drinks in England

UK – Ministers will ban the sale of Red Bull, Monster Energy and other energy drinks to children in England amid growing concern about the impact that the high-caffeine, high-sugar drinks are having on young people’s health.

According to Guardian, a consultation on how to implement the proposed ban will be unveiled with Downing Street indicating that the principal question to be determined is whether the purchasing restrictions will apply at the age of 16 or 18.

The proposed ban only applies to England, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can all follow suit if their administrations wish.

In March, several major supermarket chains announced that they would ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.

The teachers’ union NASUWT called last year for the sale of the drinks to under-16s to be banned by all retailers.

Its national official for education, Darren Northcott, described the beverages as “legal highs” that helped to fuel bad behaviour in schools.

Mintel consumer data starts at the age of 16, with the biggest official UK market for energy drinks being boys aged 16 to 24, with 63% consuming them compared with 58% of girls.

But, according to European Food Safety Authority research, two-thirds of 10 to 16-year-olds regularly consume energy drinks, along with 18% of three to 10-years-olds.

“There is no evidence that energy drinks have any nutritional value or place in the diet of children and young people.

That’s why we’re pleased to see the government take action on this and other measures to tackle childhood obesity and improve children’s health,” said Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Theresa May said the consultation was linked to the government’s childhood obesity strategy and said it was necessary to examine the consumption of energy drinks “often because they are sold at cheaper prices than soft drinks”.

The principal justification for the ban is the high level of caffeine in the energy drinks, which has been linked to a string of health problems for children, including head and stomach aches, as well as hyperactivity and sleep problems.

FoodBev also reported that energy drinks often also have higher levels of sugar than soft drinks, and according to government figures, sugared energy drinks have 60% more calories and 65% more sugar than normal soft drinks and sugar is one of the largest causes of obesity.

Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef and food health campaigner, said he welcomed the prospect of a ban on energy drink sales because “too many children are regularly using them to replace breakfast” and “teachers from across the country have told me how their lessons are disrupted because of these drinks, packed with stimulants”.

Some major retailers already ban sales of energy drinks to youngsters, but cheap prices in other outlets mean that consumption by children in the UK is estimated by ministers to be 50% ahead of other countries in Europe.

The move is the latest step in an increasingly interventionist approach being pursued by the Conservatives in relation to childhood obesity and health, when George Osborne introduced a tax on sugary drinks, as he was the chancellor.

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