Call for energy drinks for young to be restricted

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A CAMPAIGN to encourage major retailers to crack down on the sales of energy drinks to children has been launched in the Capital.

The sale and promotion of high caffeine drinks such as Red Bull is already banned in schools, under the Schools: Health Promotion and ­Nutrition Act Scotland 2007.

Norma Austin Hart, who wants energy drinks restricted, elects for milk with St Catherine's pupil Summer Ross. Picture: Esme Allen

Norma Austin Hart, who wants energy drinks restricted, elects for milk with St Catherine's pupil Summer Ross. Picture: Esme Allen

But youngsters can still ­easily purchase them from retailers – despite warnings on the cans stating that they are not advised for children.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, Labour representative for the Liberton/Gilmerton ward, has written to Scotmid, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Iceland, asking them to adopt a plan which will make it harder for kids to get their hands on energy drinks.

She launched her campaign at St Catherine’s Primary in Gracemount. She said: “We’re not saying that no-one should consume energy drinks, but both the NHS and the Food Standards Agency agree that they are not suitable for children, yet they can still walk into any shop and buy them, with no questions asked. What we want is a more responsible stance from ­shopkeepers.”

The Responsible Retailers of Energy Drinks campaign is asking that shopkeepers work “pro-actively with schools and community groups to support healthy lifestyle choices for children” by stacking energy drinks on higher shelves, placing advisory notices in stores and on online orders of energy drinks, and providing training and guidance for staff. Campaigners have also suggested retailers can implement age checks on youngsters who they suspect may be under 13 at manned and self-service check-outs.

Suzie Routledge, 44, of Gracemount, whose children, Alistair, ten, and Maeghan, six, both attend St Catherine’s, said she fully supported the campaign, especially after her son admitted he faced peer pressure from his friends to consume the drinks.

She said: “Children are very susceptible to advertising, and when their friends are all doing something they want to as well. But these aren’t suitable for children and it should be more difficult for them to get them.”

Fernieside resident Sarah Ross, 34, whose daughters Lauren, ten, and Summer, six, also go to St Catherine’s, said she thought the campaign was “brilliant”.

She said: “These drinks make children far too hyper when they’re in school, and that has a knock-on effect to the rest of the class. I don’t let my children have any fizzy drinks at all.”

Sonya Tierney, a development worker at the Edinburgh Community Food initiative, which aims to tackle health inequalities throughout the Capital, also voiced support for the campaign.

She said: “These drinks are high in caffeine and sugar, and I really don’t think a lot of people realise what effect the ingredients can have, especially on children.”

Ongoing concerns over products

The Evening News reported in April last year that concerns were being raised over school pupils “disturbing” intake of energy drinks, when youngsters at Knox Academy in Haddington admitted they were downing several cans a day, some even having them instead of breakfast.

Energy drinks are high in sugars, caffeine and taurine, an organic acid and a major constituent of bile found in the large intestine. Little is known about the effects of heavy or long-term use.

In September 2009 two major retailers in Sweden banned the sale of energy drinks to under-16s, due to worries over hyperactivity and a suggestion the drinks were a gateway to alcohol abuse.