CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the Scottish Government to ban the sale of energy drinks to children after a new study found just one of the beverages could put a nine-year-old boy over the safe daily limit for caffeine.
Edinburgh councillor Norma Austin Hart, who founded the campaign group RRED (Responsible Retail of Energy Drinks), said the latest research gives scientific backing to their call for action on drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar.
The study by the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) suggests that a safe level of consumption for children and adolescents is 3mg caffeine per kg of body weight.
Councillor Austin Hart said: “An average nine-year-old boy weighs 28kg which means a safe consumption level of 84mg. One can of Red Bull has 80mg of caffeine so just a bar of chocolate or an ordinary fizzy drink on top of that would take them well over the safe limit – and other energy drinks may have higher caffeine levels.”
Schools and leisure centres in Edinburgh have already banned sales of energy drinks and city shop chain Margiotta and several independent retailers have agreed to stop sales to under-16s.
Councillor Austin Hart said: “This research is brilliant news for RRED. At last we have scientific opinion which states clearly how much caffeine is safe for children.”
She said supermarkets had previously told RRED they did not support the restricted sale of energy drinks because there was no scientific evidence of the harmful effects of energy drinks on children. “This study validates the RRED campaign and gives us an unassailable academic basis. Parents now have a basis for deciding how much caffeine is safe.”
“It says on every can of energy drink ‘not recommended for children’ but we all know children are buying and drinking them.
“The EFSA research suggests that adolescents are the largest group of consumers of energy drinks so we know this is big business.
“I’m writing to Health Secretary Shona Robison, asking the Scottish Government to consider legislating to restrict the sale of energy drink to over-16s.”
Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said parents and schools should be aware of the total caffeine intake of children from all sources including coffee, tea and energy drinks.
He said: “Energy drinks producers provide caffeine content on all labelling and market their products responsibly by recommending consumption in moderation and not promoting these drinks to children.
“The recent EFSA opinion confirms the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients and therefore does not provide any scientific justification to treat energy drinks any differently to the main contributors to daily caffeine intake including tea, coffee and chocolate. One 250ml can of energy drink typically contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.”
Comment – Page 17