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Ireland to review safety of energy drinks

17-Feb-2004

The Irish health authorities have confirmed they will review their policy on energy drinks following the decision by the European Court of Justice to uphold the French ban on Red Bull.

The Netherlands has also been prompted to review the product, according to reports, but has since declared it to present no risk.

Red Bull has been banned in France since 2000 on the basis of insufficient evidence showing the safety of the high content of caffeine and taurine in the drink. It is also banned in Sweden and Denmark.

The recent court decision upheld the French ban, ruling that EU member states are allowed to prohibit trade of certain products under national law if they believe them to present a hazard to public safety.

Following news of the court decision, a large number of enquiries at Ireland's department of health prompted it to propose a further review of all 'stimulant' drinks, or those with added caffeine and taurine, but not including sports drinks.

Ireland's food safety promotion board Safefood has recommended that the energy drink should be labelled as unsuitable for children under 16 and for pregnant women. It also wants to ban the promotion of Red Bull in sport and in combination with alcohol.

Science and technical director of Safefood Dr Thomas Quigley told NutraIngredients.com that there has been no recent evidence to suggest such drinks could be dangerous. However, the body has previously highlighted the need for better labelling of high caffeine drinks - it was behind an EU regulation, to be implemented in July, requiring beverages containing more than 150 mg caffeine per litre to be labelled 'high caffeine content'.

The body also claims that an analysis of Red Bull's use in Ireland, which has one of the highest consumption rates of energy drinks in Europe, shows that it is promoted for use in sport yet the high caffeine content causes dehydration, and not the required rehydration.

Dr Quigley also said there is a strong association between alcohol and Red Bull.

Safefood's first review of energy drinks in 2001 was prompted by a coroner's report into the death of a young man during a basketball match. He had drunk several cans of Red Bull.

But the drink's manufacturer has regularly defended the safety of its product and a recent study shows that consumers do not appear to be concerned by the product's ingredients - the brand is present in 13 West European countries and holds the lead in 12 of these, according to UK-based consultancy Zenith International.

Energy drinks saw a 6.5 per cent sales increase in 2003 to 311 million litres, translating into a market value of €2340 million. Around 64 per cent of 2003 volume was generated by away from home consumption through bars, clubs and petrol stations, said the Zenith report.

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