Jamie Oliver joins call for age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks

In December academics from Fuse urged the government to consider restricting the sale of energy drinks to under 16s after finding that they are being sold to children ‘cheaper than water and pop’.

The supermarket Waitrose has also announced that it is to ban the sale of the drinks to young people from 5 March.

Now Jamie Oliver is joining the call as part of his ongoing campaign to combat diet related disease. He joins parents, academics, the National Education Union (the largest education union), teachers from Educating Yorkshire and Educating Essex, and many more to call for government action.

‘not recommended for children’

The label on every energy drink can specifically says ‘not recommended for children’, yet 69% of adolescents and 24% of children under 10 are drinking them in the UK.

In an episode of Friday Night Feast, which airs tonight (Friday 5 January at 8pm), Jamie and Jimmy Doherty explore how energy drinks impact kids. They speak to a number of teachers, who describe the strain of teaching pupils who are under the influence of energy drinks. Teachers explain how they even devise back-up lesson plans, depending on whether the kids are on a ‘high’ or ‘crashing’.

Many schools have banned these drinks, but bans in schools aren’t enough. A study commissioned by the Scottish government found that 41% of 13 to 15 year olds buy a sugary drink, including fizzy drinks and energy drinks, off-site at lunchtime, despite bans inside the school gates.

Jamie Oliver says: "If the energy drink industry is literally telling us their products are ‘not recommended for children’ on the cans, why can kids as young as 10 buy them whenever they want? This consumption is compromising our kids, and our teachers, too – we have to do something about it. We urgently need the government to step up and put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to all under 16s."

Growing evidence about the detrimental impact of energy drinks

The evidence which shows the detrimental impact of energy drinks on a child’s health is growing every day:

  • Energy drinks contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar - more than twice the maximum daily intake for adults.
  • 12% of UK children under 11 are drinking a 1 litre bottle in a single session.
  • Young people in the UK consume more energy drinks on average than their EU counterparts (3.1 litres per month, compared with 2 litres).
  • Many brands of energy drinks contain 160mg of caffeine per 500ml - a 10-year-old should not consume more than 99mg per day.
  • Energy drinks retail for as little as 25p.
  • Sales of energy drinks rose 155% between 2006 and 2014.

Dr Amelia Lake, Associate Director of Fuse, Dietitian and Reader in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University says: "In our research we have had children as young as 10 describe how energy drinks are linked to the computer games they are playing. These games may be for older age groups – but younger children are playing them and are being subjected to the energy drinks marketing within these games. They described collecting codes to boost the stamina of their characters. Companies need to appreciate that while they are aiming for an older age-group, younger children are clearly in receipt of this marketing.

"Our review of the evidence has clearly shown that these energy drinks are harmful for under-18s. Their consumption is associated with a range of negative effects and unhealthy behaviours, including physical health complaints, such as headaches, palpitations and insomnia, and higher rates of alcohol, smoking and drug use

"What’s interesting is the young people are essentially asking why these drinks are being sold and marketed to them when we know they are not good for them. They are telling us that energy drinks cost less than water or pop! They are asking, why aren’t energy drinks age restricted like cigarettes? Why can they get them so easily? But they are also well aware there isn’t a simple solution.

"Schools have tried restricting these drinks - now it’s time to try and do something more central.  These drinks are a problem and a government solution is needed."

Impact on schools and children's learning

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union, says: "Schools do all they can to provide an environment conducive to learning, but they can’t control what’s on sale beyond the school gates.  If the Government is serious about protecting children, it needs to put their interests  before the profits of the energy drinks industry and ban the sale of these harmful products to under 16s."

Vic Goddard, Headteacher of Passmores Academy and star of Educating Essex, says: "Energy drinks give our young people artificial spikes in energy which means they find it impossible to focus in class, followed by massive dips where they look like they haven’t slept all week.  We banned them from Passmores years ago, but the kids still buy and drink them on the way to and from school. They gain nothing from consuming this ‘liquid sugar’ and caffeine hit but we can all see the negatives. A ban for under 16s is urgently needed."

Matthew Burton, Deputy Head who starred in Educating Yorkshire says: "As part of our drive towards ensuring excellent behaviour in the school, we absolutely had to ban energy drinks because of the clearly harmful effect they have on children’s health and their learning. Unfortunately we can’t control how available they are on the high street before and after students leave our care. When they’re so readily available – for just 25p in the local shops and supermarkets – it shows that we urgently need government action to regulate their sale."


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Last modified: Tue, 31 Jul 2018 09:13:39 BST