The DVFA has produced a leaflet about energy drinks and their possible adverse effects for children for parents, teachers and educators at after-school clubs.
The campaign followed the findings of a study conducted by the Danish National Food Institute (DTU), which looked at the consumption of energy drinks among 3682 Danes aged 10-35 years via an online questionnaire. It revealed adults often gave children energy drinks at occasions like birthdays parties and after sport as an alternative to soft drinks. Therefore the leaflet highlighted that there was a difference between soft drinks and energy drinks in terms of caffeine content.
Announcing the campaign, the DVFA said: “So the message for both children and adults is simple: Energy drinks are not for children!”
The study found that attitudes towards energy drinks had changed, with the younger generation now considering energy drinks as equivalent to soft drinks. The researchers called this shift in perception of what drinks were 'normal' to consume problematic. Besides the higher caffeine content, the DTU said energy drinks could contain 10-15% more sugar than soft drinks.
The authority said energy drink consumption amongst young people was an issue that must be addressed as schools reported challenges with children drinking energy drinks and poison centres regularly dealt with illness like palpitations and high blood pressure after reported overconsumption of the products.
The study reported that 42% of those who had consumed energy drinks experienced side effects.
The leaflet in Danish said large amounts of caffeine could lead to children and young people feeling more anxious, irritable as well as to issues with concentration. It also pointed to adverse effects like abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, insomnia, palpitations and muscle tremors.
It added that energy drinks could be addictive for children and young people, which it said was the same for caffeine in coffee for adults.
“Therefore, it can be difficult to control consumption energy drink, if you drink them often,” according to the leaflet.
The DTU researchers found the volume of energy drinks sold in Denmark had increased significantly since 2010 - tripling from just under four million litres per year to about 11 million litres. They said this was partly due to increases in unit size, with 500 ml products accounting for about 47% of energy drinks in 2013 compared to around 15% back in 2010.
Responding to the campaign, trade body Energy Drinks Europe (EDE) told us it had not seen an English translation of the text but it would support the leaflet if it was fact-based with the aim of providing parents with information about energy drinks and in general about caffeine and its potential sources.
EDE president Andreas Kadi pointed out that its Code of Practice meant members had already committed to providing information to consumers through websites and leaflets on energy drinks, responsible consumption and characteristic ingredients and how their caffeine content compares to other caffeine containing foods and beverages. He said this went beyond labelling requirements.
Under the European food labelling regulation Food Information to Consumers (FIC) implemented in December, food supplements, foods and drinks with added caffeine content over 150 mg per litre must clearly carry the front-of-pack warning: "High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women."
The DVFA said children were being given the drinks despite this visible warning.