Published on 1st January 2018


Supermarket giants Asda, Aldi and Sainsbury’s are to follow Waitrose’s lead in banning the sale of energy drinks to under-16s. The move follows calls from a number of academics and campaigners, including teachers’ union NASUWT, charity Action on Sugar, and TV chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver, to ban the products. From early March, customers buying drinks containing more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre may be asked to prove they are over 16.

Energy drinks typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugar and must, by law, carry a warning that they are not suitable for children. Despite this, recent research led by Newcastle University found that around one in three young people (aged 10-14) said that they regularly consumed energy drinks.1 The study, conducted in collaboration with Fuse (The Centre for Translational Research into Public Health) and published in PLOS One, also found that the drinks were easily available to children and young people in local shops, and were affordable – being sold for as little as 25p.

NASUWT's own campaign against energy drinks was initiated after teachers and head teachers raised concerns about increasing consumption of energy drinks among children, and its impact on teaching and learning. More than one in 10 teachers who responded to the NASUWT Annual Big Question Survey 2017 cited energy drinks as a key cause of poor pupil behaviour in schools.2

Poor behaviour in the classroom was also echoed in an episode of Channel 4’s Friday Night Feast which aired earlier this month, in which Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty spoke to a number of teachers who described the strain of teaching pupils who were under the influence of energy drinks. The teachers said that they even devised back-up lesson plans, depending on whether the kids were on a ”high” or “crashing”. Oliver is now calling for teachers and the public to make their voices heard by tweeting the secretary of state for health @Jeremy_Hunt and local MPs to put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s using #NotForChildren.

Oliver said: “If the energy drink industry is literally telling us their products are ‘not recommended for children’ on the cans, why can kids as young as 10 buy them whenever they want? This consumption is compromising our kids, and our teachers, too – we have to do something about it. We urgently need the government to step up and put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to all under-16s.”

Energy drinks can contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar - even more in some cases - and up to 160 mg caffeine per single 500 ml can.


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