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Energy drinks

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic drinks containing ingredients such as glucose, caffeine or taurine, that provide functional benefits by boosting energy and alertness.  The code of practice for high caffeine content soft drinks relates to soft drinks that contain more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre.  Such drinks contain about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

How much caffeine is there in a high caffeine content soft drink?

Caffeine is found in many popular foods and drinks.  The exact amount in any food or drink will depend on the recipe and method, e.g. how long a cup of tea is steeped, but the table below shows typical amounts.

Mug of filter coffee 140 mg
Mug of instant coffee 100 mg
Can of energy drink high in caffeine 80 mg
Mug of tea 75 mg
Small bar of chocolate 50 mg
Can of cola 40 mg

(figures from the Food Standards Agency)

Are energy drinks safe?

High caffeine soft drinks and their ingredients have been carefully studied by the regulatory authorities and have been recognised as safe.  Caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone have all been assessed by the Food Standards Agency and the European Food Safety Authority as not posing any safety concerns at the levels of intake observed among consumers.  (See, for example, the Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on Additional information on “energy” drinks (expressed on 5 March 2003) and the Scientific Opinion of the EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food on The use of taurine and D-glucurono-γ-lactone as constituents of the so-called “energy” drinks (adopted on 15 January 2009).)

What is the code of practice?

The code supports consumers and parents who want to make informed choices.  It states the industry’s view 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 ensures that high caffeine soft drinks will not be promoted or marketed to those under 16.

Read the code of practice here.

Why have you adopted this code?

The code is to support those wanting to make an informed choice about the type of drinks they consume.  Consumers and media have highlighted concerns about these types of products and the code has been compiled to help address those concerns and explain the position taken by the industry on how such products can be enjoyed.  This code support consumers and parents who want to make informed choices.

Are energy drinks safe for children?

Latest reviews of the scientific evidence suggest that children can be more susceptible to the stimulant effects of caffeine than adults because of their lower body mass and because, unlike many adults, they are not used to it on a regular basis.  On a precautionary basis, therefore, the soft drinks industry suggests that high caffeine content soft drinks should not be consumed by children.  However, this does not mean that the drinks are unsafe, and we firmly believe parents should decide what is right for their families.

What if my child drinks an energy drink?

Your child’s reaction will depend on his/her sensitivity to caffeine.  If there are any effects, they will be transient and soon pass.  If you are concerned, you should consult your doctor.

Are energy drinks allowed in schools?

The regulations regarding food and drink in schools already prohibit high caffeine content soft drinks from being sold in schools.  Some schools have gone further and banned their students from bringing high caffeine content soft drinks into school from outside.  Schools and parents have an important role to play in educating children about the food and drink they should be consuming - we clearly label high caffeine soft drinks as not suitable for children so that people can make an informed choice.

Can energy drinks be mixed with alcoholic drinks?

Neither alcoholic drinks nor energy drinks should be consumed by children.  Those adults who choose to drink alcoholic drinks should drink them in moderation, whether they are mixed with energy drinks or not.

What about energy shots?

A separate code for energy shots has been adopted by UNESDA, the Union of European Beverages Associations, and supported by BSDA, which you can read here.  It states, inter alia, that energy shots are not suitable for children and that energy shots should not be promoted as suitable for mixing with alcohol.

About the code of practice: information for retailers

Read the code of practice here.

To whom does the code apply?

The code applies to manufacturers and importers of soft drinks that are members of BSDA.  It contains provisions on how they should label and market their soft drinks that are high in caffeine.

To what drinks does the code apply?

The code of practice applies to soft drinks that are high in caffeine (above 150 mg per litre).  It does not apply to energy shots that are sold as food supplements (and are thus subject to food supplement regulations), nor does it apply to soft drinks that are not high in caffeine.

What are the rules about promotion and merchandising in-store?

Decisions about promotion and merchandising in-store are taken by retailers, not by manufacturers.  However, where manufacturers offer guidance and suggestions on promotion and merchandising, they will take into account the provisions in the code about marketing to ensure that any such promotion and merchandising does not target persons under the age of 16.