Waitrose bans sale of highly caffeinated drinks to under 16s

8 January 2018 - Janet Bird

high caffeine energy drinks

Waitrose is to ban the sale of highly caffeinated drinks to under 16s.

From March 5, shoppers buying drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre in Waitrose stores may be asked to prove they are over 16.

The move comes as a campaign to stop the sale of such drinks to under 16s gathers momentum, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver among the high profile individuals throwing their weight behind a proposed ban.

In December 2017, academics from Fuse (the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health) called on the Government to ban the sale of such drinks to under 16s after research found around one in three young people say they regularly consume energy drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugar.

In the first study to explore in-depth the views of children as young as ten on energy drinks, Fuse researchers spoke to children and young people, aged 10-14 years old, from primary and secondary schools in Country Durham, North East England and visited shops in the local area.

Fuse said their study discovered that energy drinks were:

  • Easily available to the children and young people in local shops.
  • Sold for as little as 25p, with some of the young people taking advantage of special offers by pooling their money and sharing the drinks.
  • Targeted at children online in pop-up adverts, on television, in computer games for over-18s, and through sports sponsorship.
  • Linked to extreme sports, gaming, sexuality and gender, and use of sexualised imagery.

The British Soft Drinks Association introduced a voluntary code of practice in 2010 in a bid to stop soft drinks companies marketing highly caffeinated drinks to children, but UK youngsters remain among the highest consumers in Europe.

Waitrose said its decision was based on industry labelling guidelines requiring 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.

"These drinks carry advice stating that they are not recommended for children, so we're choosing to proactively act on that guidance, particularly given the widespread concerns which have been raised about these drinks when consumed by under 16s," a spokesman said.

The move has been welcomed by health and education groups who have previously campaigned about the effects high-caffeine energy drinks can have on children.

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