Energy drinks consumption among UK children ‘way above’ European average
Steve Brine said that large cans of energy drinks contain more caffeine than coffee.
Children in the UK are consuming energy drinks way above the European average, the Public Health Minister has said.
Steve Brine said that he does not allow his own children to drink high energy drinks.
Speaking before the Science and Technology committee, Mr Brine said some children are drinking more caffeine than if they were drinking coffee.
Officials have been contacted by concerned parents, teachers and health professionals who are worried about the high levels of energy drink consumption, he said.
The Government’s second chapter of its childhood obesity plan, published in June, set out how officials intend to consult on a ban on children being able to buy energy drinks.
We know we see consumption levels way above the European average Steve Brine
The plan sets out how health officials are “concerned” about the impact that high-caffeine energy drinks are having on the levels of caffeine and sugar that children consume.
The document sets out how regular consumption among children can lead to headaches, sleeping problems, irritation and tiredness.
It states that nearly 70% of UK children aged 10 to 17 years old consume energy drinks.
And that those who do so are drinking on average 50% more than the EU average for that age group.
Mr Brine praised retailers who have already taken action in voluntarily introducing a ban on sales to children.
Ministers intend to consult on their intention to introduce legislation to end the sale of energy drinks to children by all retailers.
Mr Brine told the committee that the consultation will also consult on what age children could be banned from buying energy drinks, be it age 16, 17 or 18.
He told the committee: “We are hearing strong calls from parents, from health professionals, from teachers, from retailers, from MPs across the political spectrum for action on high caffeine energy drinks.
“Parents, and I count myself among them, and those who work with children and teachers are concerned about energy drink consumption and children’s health and their behaviour.
“We know we see consumption levels way above the European average.”
He said more evidence is needed in the area but added: “Studies have linked energy drink consumption by children to increased likelihood of headaches, of emotional difficulties, of tiredness, of sleeping problems.”
He added that in surveys teachers have identified energy drinks as a root of problems for poor behaviour.
“I don’t allow my children to drink high energy drinks,” he told MPs.
Mr Brine added: “There maybe less caffeine in a standard 200ml can than in a cup of coffee.
“But we know in many cases energy drinks are being sold in much bigger cans, 500ml for example, and they can contain as much as 160 milligrams of caffeine.
!I’m not a clinician and I’m certainly not a scientist but it can mean that children are taking in much more caffeine than if they were drinking a cup of coffee for instance.”
According to NHS Choices, one mug of instant coffee has around 100mg of caffeine.
He said that energy drinks are much more “quaffable” to children than other caffeine containing drinks such as tea or coffee.
Jenny Oldroyd, deputy director for obesity, food at nutrition at the Department of Health and Social Care, added that the drinks often have more sugar than a regular soft drink to compensate for the bitter taste of the caffeine.
“Our 10 to 14 year olds in this country are more likely than our 15 to 18 year olds to be chronic consumers – so four to five cans a week,” she said.
“And around a quarter of adolescents are consuming more than three energy drinks in one sitting, so its that high level of consumption that concerns us.”