The House of Commons select committee on science and technology has recommended in a report published this week a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. LACA, the school meals organisation, has immediately announced its support for the decision.
In a statement, the group said, “LACA fully supports the Government’s proposal, as part of the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity plan, to end the sale of energy drinks to children, as shown in our response to their consultation on this issue.
“As such, we welcome the publication of the Science and Technology Committee’s report into this topic, and their recognition that societal concerns could justify a ban.
“We hope the Government response to the consultation will reflect the evidence that the prohibition of energy drinks would improve attainment and concentration in schools, whilst also helping to tackle childhood obesity and associated health issues later in life.'
The Science and Technology Committee’s Energy Drinks and Children Report has concluded that societal concerns could justify a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. However, the committee found that the current quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to warrant a statutory ban.
The inquiry examined the effects of energy drinks, especially the caffeine contained in them, and was launched after research showed that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age group.
The committee sought to understand whether the caffeine in energy drinks had a negative health and behavioural effect on young people and if the sale of energy drinks to under 16s should be banned.
Based on the current scientific evidence available, the committee concluded that the existing quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a statutory ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.
However, after reviewing a range of qualitative evidence, such as the experiences of teachers, the committee said it:
* welcomes any voluntary action taken by schools, retailers and local communities that could reduce energy drink consumption among children, including exclusion zones;
* acknowledges that the current voluntary ban implemented by a number of retailers amplifies the message that energy drinks are associated with negative health, behavioural and dietary effects;
* recognises that it might be legitimate for the Government to implement a statutory ban based on societal concerns and qualitative evidence, such as the experience of school teachers.
It also said the low price and easy access to energy drinks can lead to high consumption levels amongst children and teenagers, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Analysis of the World Health Organisation’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey found that children in receipt of free school meals (FSM) disproportionately consume energy drinks. Among students who reported that they drank at least one energy drink per day, 23% received FSM, compared with 13% receiving FSM in the sample as a whole.
Further, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health cited a longitudinal study in the Netherlands of 509 adolescents which found that the consumption of one or more energy drinks per day may have a negative impact on “daily life behaviours related to executive function (i.e. mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully).
The committee said it also recommends that the Government commission independent research to establish whether energy drinks have more harmful effects than other soft drinks containing caffeine in order to support evidence-based decision-making.
It also wants more prominent advisory notices on energy drinks packaging. In its report it recommends that the Government use the opportunity of leaving the EU to introduce additional labeling requirements to ensure that advisory messages are not merely in 'the small print', enabling more informed decision prior to purchase.