[Updated to include links to (failed) energy drink bans…a running list]
The American Medical Association has come out in support of a ban on energy drink sales to those under age 18. While many people agree that minors and adolescents are more sensitive to caffeine than adults, many others are disappointed that AMA’s actions imply turning 19 means your body becomes invincible to caffeine toxicity, or worse, that ALL SO-CALLED ENERGY DRINKS ARE THE SAME.
“Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,” said AMA board member Alexander Ding, MD.
–Read the AMA release here:
AMA Adopts New Policies on Second Day of Voting at Annual Meeting
True, the AMA is proposing a ban on marketing to minors, which is different than banning the sale of energy drinks to minors. Yet a close look at Dr. Ding’s language in the quote above betrays the intent to keep minors from consuming these drinks at all. That would certainly make Senators Dick Durban and Richard Blumenthal happy*. It’s easy to agree with a ban on marketing to minors, but prohibiting the sale all together is one step too far considering the implications and complications that would ensue.
*See “Which comes first: supplement safety laws or the power to enforce them? The Durbin-Blumenthal Dietary Supplement Labeling Act” by GreenEyedGuide
While the AMA’s position is not legally binding, their opinions do carry some weight in Washington. The FDA is currently reviewing the dangers and consumption practices of energy drinks among minors, but their findings will not carry any weight unless the following single step takes place: RE-DEFINE OR RECLASSIFY THE TERM “ENERGY DRINK”!
Heath Canada was ahead of the curve when they did this reclassification, basically saying, “We don’t care if your product is technically a ‘Natural Health Product’ or a ‘stimulant-containing drink’ or whatever else, but if the product has caffeine it is hereby and henceforth called a food, and you’re not allowed to add more than 180 milligrams of caffeine to an 8-ounce product or 400 milligrams caffeine per liter.”
Boom. Done. Problem solved.
Ode to Health Canada: Capping and Reclassifying Caffeine
In the US, the term “energy drink” is misleading because a caffeinated product might be labeled a food/beverage or as a supplement – each category has different regulations to abide by. This Nutrition Business Journal article from New Hope 360 explains why Health Canada’s move was so effective and brilliant:
Still, the rules are nothing to sneeze at. Not only do they put strict control over manufacturing and labeling, but they also clear up nomenclature issues by putting energy drinks under one clear designation as food. In the United States, on the other hand, energy drinks can either be labeled as a food—in the case of Red Bull—or a dietary supplement—in the case of Monster and 5-Hour Energy. These crisscrossing definitions impede blanket action. — NewHope360
If the FDA would just take a page from Health Canada’s playbook and reclassify all caffeinated products as food/beverages, it would be easier to issue a caffeine limit per serving. That would protect everyone, not just those under age 18. Instead of telling kids energy drinks are “forbidden” (because minors LOVE it when you tell them they’re not allowed to do something), how about first reclassify anything and everything with caffeine in it as a food/beverage product, then cap the amount of caffeine “from all sources” to 180 milligrams, like Health Canada? Boom. Done.
Banning all “energy drinks” sales to minors is a poor attempt at fixing the real problem of caffeine toxicity: Why? Because BOTH V8 V-Fusion Energy and Red Bull are “energy drinks” and both contain 80 milligrams of caffeine:
Are all “energy drinks” dangerous? No – the caffeine in them can be (at certain amounts). Let’s focus on the REAL issue, shall we? Let’s focus on caffeine content, and the dangerous mixture of caffeine and alcohol.
Energy Drink Bans
- Toronto backs away from energy drink ban [March 2017]
- Caffeine Informer’s History of Energy Drink bans [2008 – 2014]
- Open letter to Time Magazine regarding energy drink article in “The Answer Issue”
- Ironman and Hulk demonstrate why mixing alcohol and caffeine is so bad
- How much caffeine can I have in a day? Book Excerpt of the Week