USA: Calls to ban the sale of energy drinks to children

US pediatricians, parents urge authorities to tackle new high-caffeine energy drinks like alcohol and cigarettes

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Pediatricians and parents in the US are calling on authorities to crack down on new high-caffeine energy drinks like alcohol and cigarettes and ban their sale to minors as even one pack can contain as much caffeine as six soft drinks cola type.

Launched this year, Prime Energy contains 200 micrograms of caffeine in a 350ml pack, exceeding the permitted levels of the substance in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Competing energy drinks such as AB InBev's Ghost and Kim Kardashian's Kimade energy drink also contain 200 micrograms of caffeine. The competing Monster Energy contains 150 mg.

As the caffeine content of energy drinks has increased over the years, some countries and retailers have banned these products, while some require proof of age to purchase them.

In the US and UK there is no national regulation banning the sale of highly caffeinated energy drinks.

In the absence of a legal framework regarding the age of the consumer, such as that which applies to alcohol and cigarettes, retailers are unlikely to restrict access to them, says Dr. Holly Benjamin, Professor of Pediatrics and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Chicago.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there is no proven safe dose of caffeine for children.

"Retailers could choose to put sports drinks and energy drinks in different places and carry different labels on the shelves, but I think that's unlikely to happen without regulation that starts with better product labeling and broad education." said Dr. Benjamin.

He added: "Any energy drink with a high dose of caffeine, such as Prime Energy, is not safe for children."

Side effects for children who consume caffeine can include fast or irregular heartbeats, headaches, seizures, tremors, upset stomachs and adverse emotional effects on mental health, Benjamin noted.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing a request by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to investigate the caffeine content of Prime Energy and its promotion to children, a spokesman said.

Representatives for Prime's maker declined to comment, while Ghost Energy and Monster Energy did not respond to messages seeking comment. Congo Brands, which owns Kimade, Alani Nu and Prime Energy, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Prime co-founders Logan Paul and KSI, both social media influencers, said in media interviews in August that they do not advertise the drink to children, adding that retailers should be the ones to control the sales to minors.

Colorful boxes that confuse parents

The American Medical Association (AMA) supports a ban on the promotion of caffeinated beverages to children under 18, according to its policy established in 2013.

The AMA is also urging regulators or US lawmakers to mandate "child-resistant packaging" (CDS: a special packaging used to reduce the risk of children ingesting hazardous materials) for energy drinks.

Cinerette Chic Ohana, a mother of five from Florida, saw the "fancy, colorful Prime cans" her kids insisted on display in the front aisles of Walmart when she shopped in the store's grocery store. She excitedly overlooked the bold black letters on the package that read "energy drink" before taking it home to her children.

“I was confused because when you first see the can, it's hard to tell where it says energy drink. It took me a while after my son pointed it out to me to find it," he explained.

"The energy drink industry is promoting these supposedly adult-only products to children, and I think Prime is just another example of a company promoting these inappropriate drinks to minors," said Bonnie Patten, executive director of Truth in Advertising (TINA).

Retailer GNC has set an age restriction of over 18 to purchase energy drinks, according to its customer service line and in-store inspections.

Target and Walmart, as well as specialty chains such as the Vitamin Shoppe, sell Prime Energy but typically do not verify the age of shoppers, according to Reuters interviews and store inspections.

"We strongly encourage our customers to follow all labeling guidelines for every product sold at Vitamin Shoppe, including energy drinks," Vitamin Shoppe said.

Target did not respond to messages seeking comment, while Walmart declined to comment.

Labels by drink manufacturers that the drinks are "not recommended" for children are creating confusion among retailers about what, if any, restrictions should be placed on the sale of energy drinks to children, lawyers argue.

Source: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ-Reuters