Position Statements

Energy Drinks

  • Energy drinks and their ingredients have been deemed safe by regulatory authorities around the world
  • The UK energy drinks market introduced a voluntary Code of Practice agreeing not to market or promote products to under 16s
  • There is no more caffeine in most energy drinks than in a typical cup of coffee
  • Coffee is the largest contributor of caffeine to the average UK diet [NDNS]

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks have been enjoyed safely by millions of people around the world for more than 30 years.

Many of the ingredients commonly used in energy drinks can be found naturally in other foodstuffs. For example, taurine occurs naturally in seafood or poultry, while caffeine is a natural constituent of coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, guarana and yerba mate.

UK energy drinks market

In 2019, volume sales of energy drinks grew by 3.9%. The energy drinks sector makes an important contribution to the UK economy, and makes up approximately 5% of the total soft drinks market. The industry encompasses manufacturers and distributors, as well as those who sell soft drinks to the public in pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and shops.

How are energy drinks regulated?

At EU level, the Consumer Information Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 which came into force in December 2014 contains provisions regarding the labelling of beverages with an added caffeine content of more than 150 mg/litre. Therefore, the labelling of energy drinks must include the following: “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women” followed by a quantitative indication of the product’s caffeine content. This approach has been adopted universally across the EU, but was applied voluntarily by industry in the UK from 2010.

Are energy drinks safe?

The 2015 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Opinion confirms the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients and therefore does not provide any scientific justification to treat energy drinks differently than the main contributors to daily caffeine intake in all age groups, i.e. tea, coffee, chocolate and other non-alcoholic beverages.

The EFSA Opinion can be found here

How much caffeine is there in a caffeinated beverage?

Caffeine is an ingredient naturally found in plants, seeds and fruits worldwide such as coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans and 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.

Cup of filter coffee (200ml) 90mg
Large cup of filter coffee (400ml) 180mg
An espresso (60ml) 80mg
Standard can of ‘energy drink’ (250ml) 80mg
Can of ‘energy drink’ (500ml)  160mg
Cup of black tea (220ml) 50mg
Small bar of plain chocolate (50g) 25mg
Standard can of cola 40mg

(figures from EFSA 2015)

The EFSA caffeine factsheet can be found here

What is the recommended level of caffeine we can consume?

The EFSA opinion confirms the safety of daily caffeine intakes of up to 3mg per kg of body weight for children and adolescents (3-18 years) and up to 400mg for adults. 

All energy drink labels disclose the exact caffeine content in the product.

Can energy drinks be consumed by children?

Whilst caffeine and energy drinks have been deemed safe by health authorities around the world, it is recommended that children consume less caffeine from all sources due to their lower body weight.

The latest European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report was regarding caffeine intake from all products and confirmed that caffeine intake from energy drinks is negligible in children and less than 11% in adolescents. EFSA states that for children and adolescents single doses of caffeine up to 3mg/kg body weight (bw) and daily intakes of caffeine up to 3mg/kg (bw) do not raise safety concerns. EFSA also notes that the main contributors to daily caffeine intake in all age groups are tea, coffee, chocolate and other non-alcoholic beverages.

What is the BSDA code of practice?

The BSDA operates a voluntary code of practice to support consumers and parents who want to make informed choices. The BSDA code of practice for high caffeine content soft drinks relates to soft drinks that contain more than 150mg of caffeine per litre.

The code states 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 aged under 16.

In light of the new labelling regulations which came into force in December 2014 this voluntary code was updated again in April 2015, and then once again April 2018. The revised code states the industry’s view that high-caffeine content soft drinks are not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women, and specifies that this information should be clearly stated on the label of such drinks.

Furthermore, the code sets out marketing rules with regard to under-16s: No marketing communications concerning high-caffeine soft drinks will be placed in any media with an audience of which more than 35% is under 16 years of age.

You can read the code of practice here.

To whom are energy drinks advertised?

The BSDA code of practice outlines methods for responsible marketing, adopted by the energy drinks industry since 2010. These include:

  • No marketing communications concerning energy drinks will be placed in any media with an audience of which more than 35% is under 16 years of age (in line with BCAP and Ofcom guidelines)
  • No commercial activity of any sort relating to energy drinks by BSDA members will be undertaken in primary or secondary schools
  • No static outdoor advertising of energy drinks will be placed within 100 metres of primary or secondary school main gates
  • Sampling activity will not deliberately be aimed at or specifically designed to appeal to under 16s
  • Marketing communications will not promote irresponsible or excessive consumption of energy drinks
  • Marketing communications will not suggest any association with illegal or anti-social behaviour

In addition to this, in 2016 soft drinks companies voluntarily agreed not to advertise any drinks high in sugar to under 16s across all media channels—including online, advergames, around schools, and specific sporting events—a year ahead of the CAP Code revision.

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

Decisions about promotion and merchandising in-store are taken by retailers, not by manufacturers, but our code of practice is intended to provide helpful guidance.

Are energy drinks allowed in schools?

The regulations regarding food and drink in schools prohibit beverages with added sugar from being sold in schools. Details on the type of drinks that can be served within schools can be found in the School Food Plan. 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 recommended for children so that people can make an informed choice.

Can energy drinks be mixed with alcoholic drinks?

There is no indication that energy drinks have any specific effect (negative or positive) related to alcohol consumption. This was confirmed by the UK Governments Committee on Toxicity (2012), which concluded that “the current balance of evidence does not support a harmful toxicological or behavioural interaction between caffeine and alcohol”. Most recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, 2015) also found that, based on the available scientific evidence, there is no harmful interaction between alcohol and caffeine from any dietary source, including energy drinks.