Energy drinks like Red Bull which contain high levels of caffeine are becoming increasingly popular. Even though guidelines recommend that these products aren’t suitable for children, they are continue to purchase and consume them more than adults. Under EU regulations, energy drinks manufacturers required under EU to label these products as “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women or persons sensitive to caffeine.”
Following increasing concerns over the impact of these products on children’s health and behaviour, Waitrose has now become the first supermarket in the UK to ban customers under the age of 16 from buying them in its stores. The new rules will come into effect on 5th March, and will include all drinks that contain more than 150mg per litre of caffeine. Younger customers will also be required to show proof of age to show they’re over 16 before buying the drinks.
This move will make Waitrose the only supermarket in the UK currently using this type of policy when selling energy drinks, after Morisons ended its trial policy in 2015 which was only introduced in six stores. “As a responsible retailer we want to sell these products in line with the labelling guidance”, said Simon Moore, Waitrose director of technical and corporate social responsibility. “These drinks carry advice stating that they are not recommended for children, so we’re choosing to proactively act on that guidance, particularly given the widespread concerns which have been raised about these drinks when consumed by under 16s,” he added.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), who have previously called for energy drinks not to be sold to under-16s, also welcomed the decision by Waitrose to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, saying that they fuel bad behaviour in schools. Among those campaigning for a ban include medical experts from the charity Action on Sugar and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The Foods Standards Agency has also issued warnings about that high caffeine levels in energy drinks.
“Waitrose has taken a positive and responsible step which hopefully not only other supermarkets will follow, but which will also encourage the Government to produce national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children”, said NASUWT general secretary Chris Keats. He added “These drinks are readily available legal highs and are leading to children and young people consuming high levels of stimulants, with little known about the long-term health impacts. Teachers are left to deal with the effects these stimulants have on pupil behaviour.”
Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We are delighted to see that Waitrose is leading by example with its ban and hope that other retailers will follow suit immediately. Energy drinks are completely inappropriate for children to consume, form no part of a healthy balanced diet, and should be banned for under-16s across the board. Just one can of Rockstar Punched (500ml) contains 78g sugar – that’s nearly 20 teaspoons. The consumption of energy drinks is a huge contribution to sugar intake, which is linked to the development of obesity and various types of cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes, and is rotting our children’s teeth”