Saturday 24 March 2018

Health watchdog warns energy drinks not suitable for children under 16

Meadhbh McGrath

A new report into energy drinks has found that some brands contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar.

The national food-safety watchdog Safefood found that the number of energy drinks now on sale in Ireland has soared in recent years, and warns that they are not suitable for children under the age of 16, nor should they be used for rehydration after sport.

The report revealed that the highest consumers of energy drinks were males between the ages of 15 and 24, and that 54pc of those who consume energy drinks do so at least once a week. It noted that many young adults use energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol.

A similar survey conducted in 2002 identified 10 energy drink products on sale in Ireland, but that number has risen dramatically to include 17 brands and 39 separate products in February 2015.

According to the report, the average price of an energy drink in Ireland was €1.09, but some supermarket own-brands were as low as €0.49 cent per can.

Leading brands are supported by extensive promotional campaigns on their global social media accounts, with brands such as Red Bull and Mountain Dew hosting dozens of dedicated Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Safefood criticised advertisers for aiming marketing campaigns at active young people by focusing on high-adrenalin activities and music.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition for Safefood, said: “It’s really remarkable that these products are so prevalent and together, energy drinks and sports drinks now comprise more than 20pc of the soft drinks market in Ireland.

“A typical small 250ml can has sugar levels of six teaspoons per can which is equivalent to a full chocolate bar. The caffeine content is high and drinking two small cans and one small espresso of coffee drives an adult’s daily caffeine intake above recommended levels.

“In addition, the use of energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol among young adults also has consequences in the context of Ireland’s current binge-drinking culture. Safefood’s position continues to be that these drinks are not recommended as a mixer for alcoholic beverages but this is now common and part of the binge drinking culture prevalent particularly amongst our 15-24 year olds.”

Safefood has also called for an awareness-raising campaign to highlight the potential health issues of energy drinks for young people.

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