British supermarket chain Waitrose will introduce a minimum age limit on sales of high-caffeine energy drinks as of 5 March 2018.
Responding to concerns of high levels of sugar and caffeine in such drinks, Waitrose will be the first UK supermarket to introduce a ban on their sale to children under the age of 16.
The move builds on existing industry labelling guidelines, which require any soft drink with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to carry a high caffeine content warning and state it is not recommended for children.
The current health warnings read: “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women or persons sensitive to caffeine.”
Waitrose director of technical and corporate social responsibility Simon Moore said: “As a responsible retailer we want to sell these products in line with the labelling guidance.
“These drinks carry advice stating that they are not recommended for children, so we’re choosing to proactively act on that guidance, particularly given the widespread concerns which have been raised about these drinks when consumed by under-16s.”
The move by Waitrose follows the introduction of a voluntary code of practice by the British Soft Drinks Association in 2010, prompting soft drinks companies not to market to under-16s.
British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said: “Energy drinks and their ingredients have been deemed safe by regulatory authorities around the world.
He added: “Energy drinks are not marketed or promoted to under-16s and all beverages carry an advisory note stating: not recommended to children.
“Energy drink manufacturers have taken all possible steps to be clear about the suitability of energy drinks. Retailers, schools and parents all have a role to play in educating children about caffeine and sugar consumption from all sources.”
The announcement by Waitrose has been welcomed by NASUWT, a union representing teachers, which has called for the government to commission independent research into energy drink use after complaints by head teachers and teachers.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Waitrose has taken a positive and responsible step which hopefully not only other supermarkets will follow, but which will also encourage the government to produce national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children.”
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