Ministers urged to ban the sale of energy drinks to children

Ministers have been urged to ban the sale of energy drinks to children -- as one MP branded them "highly dangerous" to under-16s.

Studies have shown that regularly consuming large quantities of caffeine can result in increased blood pressure, sleep disturbances, headaches and stomachaches.

Labour MP Anna Turley, who secured a Westminster Hall debate on the issue, told ministers that children drinking energy drinks are also more likely to consume alcohol, smoke or take drugs in later life.

The sale of the drinks in the UK increased by 155% between 2006 and 2014 and sales are projected to continue to grow until at least 2020.

Ms Turley said: "A single litre bottle of energy drink can contain the equivalent caffeine of five shots of espresso and 12 teaspoons of sugar, even more shockingly these can be purchased for as little as 79p.

"I like my coffee in the morning as much as anyone else, but I think members would join me in my shock if ahead of us in the morning queue for our latte we saw a 10-year-old child order and drink a double, triple or even quadruple espresso."

She added: "Many children and parents are just not aware of the health risks of regularly consuming these drinks. Many parents and young people will not be aware that on the back of can of energy drink you will see the words 'not recommended for children'.

"The Government rightly ensures that any product that is high in caffeine carries this warning, but how can it be that the Government forces companies to warn their product is unsafe for children to drink but follows with no enforcement measures or protections against children drinking them?"

Existing industry labelling guidelines require any soft drink with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to carry a high-caffeine content warning and state it is not recommended for children.

Ms Turley concluded by asking Health Minister Steve Brine if he would consider implementing a "full ban on the sale of these highly caffeinated and frankly highly dangerous energy drinks to children".

Mr Brine agreed that the sale of energy drinks to children was a "really big issue" and one which was firmly on the Government's radar.

He said: "Regular consumption of energy drinks by children is not appropriate at all and I say that as somebody with young children myself."

The minister went on to praise the big five supermarket chains that had cracked down on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s, but added that the producers now needed to "take a long hard look and consider their social and moral responsibility".

However, he did not go as far as to commit to a ban, telling MPs: "I would reassure members and the public that this is a matter which the Government and I are looking at very carefully.

"We will monitor the situation extremely closely in the light of emerging scientific evidence and public concern.

"If we conclude that further Government action is needed to restrict the sale of energy drinks to children then we won't hesitate to act."