LONDON — The U.K. government is seeking views from the public on ending the sale of energy drinks to children in England, Prime Minister Theresa May said Aug. 30. A ban would apply to drinks that contain more than 150 mg of caffeine per liter and would prevent all retailers from selling the drinks to children.
Many retailers in England already ban the sale of energy drinks to children, but children still may buy them from vending machines and many independent convenience stores. The ban would apply to England only and not Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The proposal comes after the U.K. government published a new chapter in its childhood obesity plan in June. The chapter detailed a commitment to cut childhood obesity in half by 2030. More than two-thirds of 10- to 17-year-olds and a quarter of 6- to 9-year-olds consume energy drinks, according to the U.K. government. A 250-ml energy drink contains about 80 mg of caffeine, and non-diet energy drinks contain 65% more sugar than regular soft drinks, according to the government.
“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges this country faces, and that’s why we are taking significant action to reduce the amounts of sugar consumed by young people and to help families make healthier choices,” Ms. May said. “Our plans to tackle obesity are already world leading, but we recognize much more needs to be done, and as part of our long-term plan for the N.H.S. (National Health Service), we are putting a renewed focus on the prevention of ill-health.
“With thousands of young people regularly consuming energy drinks, often because they are sold at cheaper prices than soft drinks, we will consult on banning the sale of energy drinks to children.”
“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges this country faces, and that’s why we are taking significant action to reduce the amounts of sugar consumed by young people and to help families make healthier choices." — Prime Minister Theresa May
The government is asking the public whether the restrictions should apply to children under 16 or under 18 and whether the law should be changed to prevent children from buying energy drinks in any situation. Teenagers in England consume 50% more energy drinks than teenagers in other European countries, said Public Health Minister Steve Brine.
“We all have a responsibility to protect children from products that are damaging to their health and education, and we know that drinks packed to the brim with caffeine, and often sugar, are becoming a common fixture of their diet,” he said.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 said sports and energy drinks account for 3% of the added sugars in the American diet. While the Guidelines recommends added sugars make up less than 10% of calories consumed per person, added sugars on average make up 13% of calories consumed.
The Guidelines said average caffeine intakes are low both for children, at 5 to 32 mg per day, and adolescents, at 63 to 80 mg per day. Most American adults consume less than 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is the upper amount associated with moderate coffee consumption that may be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.