Supermarkets in the UK Ban Energy Drinks for Under 16s

Wednesday 7th March 2018

Most major supermarkets in the United Kingdom have imposed a restriction on the sale of energy drinks with high caffeine and sugar levels, banning their sale to children under 16 years of age.

The voluntary move has been made by supermarkets and other shops, including Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, The Co-Operative, Sainsburys, Lidl, Morrisons, Aldi and Boots. The restrictions, along with calls for a more complete ban on energy drinks comes amid concerns about the high caffeine and sugar content in such drinks, and the restrictions will take effect on any drink with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre.

A spokesperson for Boots noted that the core purpose of Boots is to help their customers live healthier lives and as such have listened to growing public concern relating to young people drinking high sugar and high caffeine drinks.

The move was celebrated by some high profile campaigners, most notable celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Oliver fronted the “#NotForChildren” campaign in order to prevent the drinks from being sold to children.

Whilst the move is welcomed, there are calls for legislation on energy drinks and possibly a complete ban on their sale. Maria Caulfield MP brought the issue up at Prime Minister’s Questions in January after a case was reported of a 25 year old man committing suicide, with campaigners claiming his high consumption of energy drinks was a contributing factor.

The issue isn’t solely regarding health concerns, although the effects of high amounts of sugar and caffeine on people’s health is generally well known; high sugar causes an increased risk of obesity, caffeine increase heart rate and blood pressure, as well as the addicting, psychological effects of both substances.

Huge amounts of both are known to negatively affect children’s attention span, oral health and have been considered in statistical analyses to be unnecessary for the amounts of physical activity most children undertake.

The general secretary of NASUWT, Chris Keates, has noted that energy drinks have an adverse effect on children’s behaviour in school, something which Keates notes is left for teachers to handle.

Restricting the drinks for people above the age of 16 is generally considered to be a positive step, and it will be interesting to see going forward if more major stores follow suit or if there is legislation that puts into law what is currently a voluntary scheme.

Questions will also be raised about whether it would be of sufficient benefit to the nation if energy drinks are banned outright, and presumably that will be based on whether this and other initiatives to reduce the amount of sugar and caffeine we consume will be effective.