New Zealand Beverage Council criticises Countdown's energy drink sale restriction

The New Zealand Beverage Council says it is disappointed with Coundown's decision to restrict energy drink sales, saying regulations already in place are working well.

Countdown confirmed on Saturday that it would stop selling energy drinks to people under the age of 16 from September 2 - similar to the in the United Kingdom.

All 180 stores across the country will implement the age restrictions on the 74 different energy products Countdown currently sells.

The supermarket's general manager of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, said the company has consulted with a range of health leaders and said the combination of caffeine, sugar, serving sizes and consumption rates of energy drinks was flagged.

"The advice and feedback we received was that when it came to children’s health, restricting the sale of energy drinks would make an important and meaningful impact in an area of high need," Hannifin said.

"New Zealand has the third highest obesity rate in the OECD.  Energy drinks are not recommended for children and they already have to carry a warning on pack.  We're simply choosing to proactively put this recommendation into effect in our stores."

The decision has been applauded by University of Auckland public health academic Dr Simon Thornley.

"The sugar and caffeine in these drinks leads to children getting hooked on them, with rotten teeth and poor engagement in the classroom as predictable consequences. An age restriction makes sense."

But New Zealand Beverage Council spokesperson Stephen Jones said its a case of "a solution looking for a problem".

"Independent research from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand shows that energy drinks contribute less than three percent of the overall caffeine intake of young people aged between 9 and 15," Jones said.

"Labelling regulations in New Zealand also require energy drinks to display a caffeine content warning as well as an advisory statement that energy drinks are not recommended for young people."

He said the ingredients in the drinks have been proven to be safe and are approved, but caffeine should be consumed in moderation.

"We would prefer to work together to focus on understanding how and why children are accessing caffeine and what we can all do to better educate consumers about the caffeine content across all food categories."

Countdown's competitor Foodstuffs, which owns New World and Pak'nSave, agrees with the New Zealand Beverage Council

"Research shows people under the ages of 16 are not high consumers of these types of products, however it is important to us that we provide customers with the information they need to make informed decisions," a spokesperson said.

"Foodstuffs' focus is on educating children and their parents on how to make better choices in general."