The UK Government has moved to ban the sale of energy drinks to all children under the age of 16 following years of lobbying by advocacy groups and celebrities alike.
British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced the age limit ban on beverages high in caffeine and sugar, such as Monster, Red Bull and Lucozade.
The announcement follows a comprehensive consultation by the UK Health Department into how energy drinks are damaging kids’ health, sparking headaches, hyperactivity and obesity.
ENERGY DRINK DEBATE
A letter written by Mr Hancock to his fellow cabinet ministers revealed his plans to act on the energy drink crisis in the UK.
“Following a high level of interest in the consultation, we plan on announcing that we will be ending the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16,” Mr Hancock wrote.
He claimed he was “taking a precautionary approach to mitigate the potential negative effects associated with their excessive consumption by children”.
Mr Hancock originally tweeted his department had launched a consultation in August last year, inviting members of the public to submit their opinions on his “Childhood Obesity Plan”.
In his letter, leaked to News Corp this week, Mr Hancock admitted his plan was likely to ruffle a few feathers within the Government as well as the business industry.
He expected many to speak out against the new law because of the hit it would have on manufacturers and retailers.
At the time of the consultation’s launch, Mr Hancock argued there was a “vital need to tackle childhood obesity” by focusing government efforts on the sale of high sugar drinks like Red Bull and Monster.
“Our consultation on ending the sale of energy drinks to children is an important step towards this,” he wrote.
The move has been strongly supported by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who described Mr Hancock’s initial consultation as “good news” in the effort to tackle the obesity epidemic that’s sweeping the UK.
Oliver has spent more than three years campaigning for young children to be banned from purchasing energy drinks across the globe.
His campaign #NotForChildren has gained major momentum in the years since and has even allowed him to sit down with MPs to workshop ways to kerb kids’ access to energy drinks, which harms their sleep, diet and learning.
In an interview with Good Morning Britain in 2017, Oliver revealed a study he conducted through his company had found 13 per cent of UK kids were consuming 14 shots of caffeine in energy drinks each day — that’s an entire litre of caffeine-crammed liquid.
“No one wants to ban or regulate anything, but when things go from innocent, tiny things to a prolific problem that’s hurting kids, then we should talk about it,” Oliver said.
He said it was distressing to see kids as young as six walk into a store and “stack up on (energy drinks)”.
“The industry is saying, ‘We don’t market to kids’, but the kids say they do with their colours, their branding, their names and the things they give you when you buy them,” he explained.
THE UK’S OBESITY CRISIS
A government source told News Corp: “It’s interesting to see Hancock trying to get a new sin ban under the wire before his boss Boris arrives.”
A sin tax refers to a tax on items such as alcohol and tobacco.
But a source close to Mr Hancock said a debate was raging within the Government about applying sin taxes to products “consumed by adults, but preventing children from consuming harmful products should be a lot more straight forward”.
Conservative MP Boris Johnson is expected to oppose Mr Hancock’s energy drink proposal, arguing instead the Government should “encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise” to lose weight.
Oliver’s head of nutrition, Laura Matthews, said a typical 250ml energy drink contained 27.5g of sugar, “equivalent to almost seven cubes of sugar”.
“This is more than a child aged seven to 10 should consume in a whole day,” Ms Matthews said.
“We’ve heard from teachers, parents and children alike about how rife this problem is, with teachers sharing horror stories of trying to lead a classroom that’s “under the influence” of energy drinks and just how obstructive to learning this can be.”
Parts of this story originally appeared on The Sun and were reproduced with permission
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