UK supermarkets ban energy drink sales for under 16s

Portion of fresh Energy Drinks  close-up shot; selective focus
Photo credit: Getty

Major UK supermarket chains have banned the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16.

Asda, Aldi, Sainsbury's and Waitrose are all introducing the ban, prohibiting underage customers both in store and online from buying over 84 products.

Asda and Waitrose will introduce the ban from March 5, while Aldi and Sainsbury's will introduce it from March 1 according to the Guardian.

The ban applies to energy drinks containing more than 150mgs of caffeine per litre.

Aldi managing director of corporate responsibility Oliver King said: "We are introducing this age restriction in response to growing concern about the consumption of energy drinks among young people."

Asda chief customer officer Andrew Murray said: "We have listened to our customers and want to take a leading position in this area to support parents and teachers in limiting young people's access to high-caffeine drinks."

UK group Action On Sugar has welcomed the move, after campaigning for a nationwide ban on energy drinks for children.

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, said: "It's a scandal that certain energy drinks are being sold to children and teenagers under-16 cheaper than water and pop. The level of sugar in a typical energy drink is excessively high and increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. There must be tighter restrictions on who can buy these drinks to protect children and teenagers."

None of the major supermarkets in New Zealand have plans to introduce a similar ban.

A spokesperson for Foodstuffs, the parent company of New World and Pak 'n Save, said the company is "guided by the relevant food authorities in terms of the sale of energy drinks".

Currently the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have guidelines around how much caffeine is permitted in a beverage and require advisory labels that tell consumers the amount that can be safely consumed.

"Introducing restrictions on caffeinated products is challenging. Coffee and tea are major sources of caffeine and New Zealanders, both young and old, are likely to take a dim view of retailers questioning their Flat White or English Breakfast purchases," the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Countdown said: "We take our responsibilities as a retailer really seriously, which is why we have strict policies around selling restricted items such as alcohol and tobacco. We haven't had this issue raised by the agencies who oversee New Zealand's food safety and quality, being MPI and FSANZ, or by public health officials but we're keeping an eye on the issue and what's happening overseas." 

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