The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) has dismissed claims from government advisor John Vincent that energy drinks are essentially "a drug", but has said that “high caffeine soft drinks should not be marketed to those under 16”.
Vincent, who founded the Leo restaurant group, said in an interview with the BBC earlier this week that energy drinks are "effectively another form of drugs".
He added: “The amount of sugar and caffeine in these drinks is in our view effectively allowing drugs into schools.”
However, Gavin Partington, BSDA director general, told The Drum: “We reject the description which is inaccurate and merely designed to garner news coverage.”
Retailers currently have a voluntary ban on the sale of energy drinks to those under the age of 16, but there is no law which makes their sale illegal.
Partington added: “We are clear that energy drinks are not recommended for children, and we want to get that message across to young people and their parents.
The British Soft Drinks Association operates a code of practice which says that high caffeine content soft drinks are not recommended for children, and specifies that this information should be clearly stated on the label of such drinks. It also states that high caffeine soft drinks should not be promoted or marketed to those under 16.”
In December, energy drink company Monster beverage insisted "Millions of Monster Energy Drinks are safely consumed every day. Monster is confident that Monster Energy Drinks are safe”.
This came as San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera began launching an investigation into the practices of the company, accusing the company of misbranding its drinks and marketing them to children as young as six years old.
The American drinks company also contended a lawsuit following the death of 14-year-old Anais Fournier in 2012, saying at the time: “Monster does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit.”
According to the Foods Standards Agency, new labelling legislation is set to apply from 13 December 2014, which will require additional caffeine labelling for high caffeine drinks and foods where caffeine is added for a physiological effect.
These labels will have to state ‘Not recommended for children’ in the same field of vision as the name of the beverage, followed by a reference in brackets to the caffeine content expressed in mg per 100ml.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that the two ‘energy’ components in energy drinks - taurine and glucuronolactone – do “not pose a safety concern to adults or children at the levels currently used”.
Should the BSDA code of practice, to not market energy drinks to those under 16, be made law?