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Call to ban sale of energy drinks to kids

Press AssociationPress Association 21/07/2016

The sale of energy drinks to children under 16 should be banned after studies linking them to a range of health complaints and risky behaviours, according to a report.

A review of worldwide evidence on energy drinks links them to health complaints such as headaches, stomach aches and sleeping problems, while emergency department visits associated with their consumption in the US doubled between 2007 and 2011.

They are also associated with risky behaviours such as binge drinking and drug use, according to data cited in the report published by the Food Research Collaboration, an initiative of the Centre for Food Policy at City University London, said.

Sales of energy drinks in the UK increased by 155 per cent between 2006 and 2014, from 235 to 600 million litres.

The paper, written by Dr Shelina Visram from Durham University and Kawther Hashem from the health charity Action on Sugar, says consumption among children globally is growing, with the 10- to 14-year-old group expected to increase its intake by 11 per cent over the five years to 2019.

A survey involving 16 European countries found that 68 per cent of 11- to 18-year-olds and 18 per cent of children aged 10 and under consume energy drinks, with 11 per cent of the older group and 12 per cent of children drinking at least a litre in a single session.

The report said more research was needed on how the high levels of sugar and caffeine in energy drinks interact with each other and with other stimulants present such as taurine and guarana.

A single can of popular brands on the market can contain around 160mg of caffeine, while the European Food Safety Authority recommends an intake of no more than 105mg of caffeine per day for an average 11-year-old.

The report proposes legislation banning the sale of energy drinks to under-16s and a ban on marketing targeted at children.

Hashem, a registered nutritionist and researcher at Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Children and teenagers are being deceived into drinking large cans of energy drinks, thinking they are going to improve their performance at school, during sports, or even on a night out.

"In reality it is more likely increasing their risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries, which will have lifelong implications on their health."

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said: "The latest review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2015 confirms that energy drinks are safe and make up a very small part of the caffeine intake of adolescents and a negligible amount amongst children."

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