News

Frustration at lack of action on energy drink sales to children

Following the launch of the Government’s strategy for obesity today, Fuse and the British Dietetic Association (BDA) have expressed frustration at the lack of action on energy drink sales to children. This is despite the government first consulting on this matter over 18 months ago. The organisations have real concerns that this important step will be lost in what the government is calling a “reset” around obesity.

Energy drinks are already labelled as unsuitable for children and the evidence of their harm to children is clear. The government needs to urgently act on the findings of its consultation and make sure children cannot buy these products, or be bombarded with advertising or promotions for them either.

Professor Amelia Lake RD, Professor of Public Health Nutrition and Associate Director for Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health said: “The government’s failure to act on this issue is enormously frustrating. Our research has clearly shown that children are buying these often very cheap drinks in large quantities despite the health warnings, and we know it impacts on school work and mental health. Intake of these drinks impacts on sleep and concentration, and has been linked to headaches and other physical health impacts.”

Annabel van Griethuysen RD, an Advanced Dietetic Clinical Specialist in mental health and BDA spokesperson said: “In my role as a dietitian, I see the damaging impact of energy drinks on children and young people, in particular on their mental health. The government consulted widely on a ban and the evidence was clear – children should not be drinking energy drinks. This is a huge missed opportunity to improve children’s health.”

Energy drinks sold cheaper that water or pop

Researchers from Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, were the first to publish research exploring in-depth the views of children, as young as 10-years-old, on energy drinks.  They called on the Government to take action on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s after finding that they were being sold to young people ‘cheaper than water and pop’. The study highlighted the dangers of energy drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugar.

The research also showed that around one in three young people say that they regularly consume energy drinks, and young people in the UK were the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age group.

Professor Lake, who works at Teesside University, was involved in a national campaign, fronted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, to restrict the sale of energy drinks to teenagers, and gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the effects of energy drinks on young people’s mental and physical health.  Many large UK supermarkets also agreed to ban the sale of energy drinks to children.    

The announcement comes after a public consultation undertaken in 2018. The consultation showed overwhelming public support, with 93% of consultation respondents agreeing that businesses should be prohibited from selling the drinks to children. Teachers and health professionals, in particular, were strong in their support for the government to take action.

The work was supported by The Children's Foundation Child Health Research Programme (registered charity no. 1000013) and led by Dr Shelina Visram from Newcastle University, with academics from Durham, Northumbria, and Teesside Universities collaborating through Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

How the Fuse energy drinks research story developed:

  • November 2017: Fuse academics Visram S, Crossley S, Cheetham M. co-author a journal paper published in PLOS ONE: 'Children and young people's perceptions of energy drinks: A qualitative study'. LINK
  • Fuse press release circulated to publicise research: ‘Experts call for age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks’ which receives national and international press coverage. LINK
  • January 2018: National campaign, fronted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and supported by Fuse academic Dr Amelia Lake, backed by parents, academics, teachers and the NASUWT teaching union. LINK
  • UK shops Co-op, Boots, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Tesco agree to ban the sale of energy drinks to children.
  • February 2018: Dr Amelia Lake invited to Westminster to meet MP Norman Lamb, Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, to outline the evidence behind a call for age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to young people. LINK
  • March 2018: A Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into the consumption of energy drinks is announced which directly acknowledges the Fuse study. LINK
  • June 2019: Dr Lake provides evidence to the Commons Select Committee on the effects of energy drinks on young people’s mental and physical health. LINK
  • A raft of new proposals is outlined by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a bid to halve the number of obese children by 2030, including preventing the sale of energy drinks to under 16s. LINK
  • August 2018: The government launches a public consultation on its plans to make it illegal to sell energy drinks to anybody under the age of 18. LINK
  • December 2018: The Science and Technology Select Committee publishes its ‘Energy Drinks and Children Report’, which concludes that societal concerns could justify a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. However, the current quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to warrant a statutory ban. Fuse academics urge the government to press ahead with proposals to restrict the sale of the drinks to children. LINK
  • July 2019: The government’s green paper is published proposing a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s. LINK
  • July 2020: The government’s obesity strategy does not include a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s. LINK

Find out more about the Fuse energy drink research

 

 

Image attribution: "Energy drinks" by Jorge Franganillo via Flickr.com, copyright © 2018: https://www.flickr.com/photos/franganillo/45597924825. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Last modified: Mon, 27 Jul 2020 15:44:32 BST