Energy Drink Bans

In this three-part series, we’ll talk about whether energy drink bans are good or bad, what has been tried in the US, and the bans or restrictions in other countries.

PART ONE – Are Energy Drink Bans Good or Bad? Are They Effective?

In PART ONE of this three-part series, we’ll talk about energy drinks bans in general. Why do people want to ban energy drinks? How does an energy drink ban work? What drinks does it include and why?

It can be scary when your baby gets ahold of something they’re not supposed to have, something that could hurt them. One night I came home and noticed plastic confetti all around my dog’s bed. Gjalla doesn’t eat her victims, she tears them to shreds. That night Gjalla got ahold of my Cubs baseball hat. I was rooting for the Cubs that year even though my husband is from Wisconsin, which means what I did was worse.

I worry about my baby eating something like chocolate, something that could really hurt her. This kind of worry is why people are trying to ban energy drinks.

People who support energy drink bans want to keep their kids safe. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve banned kids from buying things that could hurt them. In some states, people under 18 are not allowed to buy cough syrup, spray paint, or Sharpies. If you’re a kid caught buying a Sharpie, it goes on your permanent record.

But a ban on energy drinks – how would that work?

For starters, we need to know how much caffeine kids can have. Is it zero?

Nope. Zero to 100 mg caffeine.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids can have 0-100 mg caffeine per day. Technically, caffeine recommendations are per bodyweight but some kids weigh more than some adults and personally, I don’t believe your weight defines you as a person. So let’s just say if you’re under 18, you get 0-100 mg caffeine, from all sources.

So we’re not just talking about Red Bulls and Rockstars, it’s also Caramel Macchiatos and Mountain Dews. Oh sure, you want to ban Red Bull, but don’t you dare come after my Pumpkin Spice Latte.

A standard can of Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte has almost twice the caffeine — 150 mg. A Grande brewed coffee from Starbucks – over 300 mg caffeine – that’s more than 3 Red Bulls.

We can’t just ban energy drinks. Caffeine is the key ingredient doing all the work. The other so-called energy drink ingredients don’t come close to affecting your body the way caffeine does.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we need to consider a ban on all sources of caffeine. Any ban on energy drinks needs to consider all sources, because energy drinks aren’t the only place kids are getting their caffeine.

The Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State found that less than 10% of the caffeine drinkers under 18 get their caffeine from energy drinks. Out of 10 kids, 8 of those get their caffeine from soda, 3 of those 10 get their caffeine from coffee, 5 of those 10 get their caffeine from tea, and 1 out of 10 get their caffeine from energy drinks.

I know this adds up to more than 10 kids, but these 10 kids are allowed to drink more than one thing.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we can’t just focus on the 10%. We can help all of them.

PART TWO – Indiana’s 2019 Energy Drink Ban – What it means for energy drinks and future energy drink bans

In this part, we’ll talk about one specific example of energy drink bans. Indiana Senate Bill 369 makes it a misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to a minor. What drinks does this ban include and *MORE IMPORTANTLY* what are the loopholes? How well will this ban keep kids safe from energy drinks and/or caffeine?

Senate Bill 369, introduced January 2019, would make it a class C misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to someone younger than 18 years old. A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal offense, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The important part: how this ban defines an “energy drink”.

This particular ban defines an energy drink as a soft drink that contains 80 mg or more of caffeine per 9 fluid ounces and either a B-vitamins, an herbal ingredient, or any methylxanthine other than caffeine (which is just a fancy way of saying other sources of caffeine like guarana, yerba mate).

What’s the problem?

For starters, Red Bull is 80 mg per 8.4 fluid ounces. If Red Bull were larger (such as the 12 oz cans Red Bull also comes in), then yes, technically it would be more than 80 mg per 9 fluid ounces. Nonetheless, because the language of this ban specified 9 fluid ounces instead of mg caffeine-per-ounce, there’s potential for confusion around if minors can buy energy drinks smaller than 9 oz.

A larger problem is that minors would not be able to buy Monster Energy, but they would be able to buy coffee-type energy drinks like Java Monster. The ban specifies a type of soft drink, but since Java Monster contains milk or milk products, it’s not technically a soft drink, which means the ban does not apply.

A third problem with the energy drink ban is that it doesn’t address coffee beverages at all. That’s a problem because Starbucks is one of the companies under the impression they need to come out with drinks with more and more and more caffeine. Starbucks Tripleshot Energy has more caffeine than the standard 8.4 oz Red Bull. It’s better to have multiple smaller containers than one container with the same amount of caffeine because of volumetrics.

Volumetrics principles indicate your brain will treat opening that second can of Red Bull as a “pause point”, giving you time to register you’ve had enough. On the contrary, Volumetrics indicates you will feel compelled to drink the whole Starbucks Doubleshot can.  Having to open a second container to get the same amount of caffeine as one big container means you will have time to stop before you have too much.

To Summarize

Even if a ban like the one proposed by Indiana passes, it won’t be effective and it certainly won’t prevent kids from buying things that have more caffeine than the maximum amount they can have in one day. Preventing someone from buying an energy drink isn’t really going to help. Instead, it would be much more effective to teach minors:

  • how to tell when you’ve had enough caffeine
  • how to read a label
  • how to figure out how much caffeine is in one drink versus another

These lessons are actions we can all take that would be much more effective than an energy drink ban.

PART THREE – Energy Drink Bans and Laws Around the World

Should energy drinks be banned? Let’s look at energy drink laws in the US and other countries. Watch the video below for a review of energy drink bans the US has tried, as well as energy drink bans and laws in the UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

US Energy Drink Bans:

  • 1:35 Kentucky’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:01 New York’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:19 Chicago’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:30 Los Angeles’ Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:58 Maryland’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:21 Indiana’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:45 General USA Energy Drink Ban Strategy

Bans, Laws, and Proposals Around the World:

  • 3:53 UK Energy Drink Ban #notforchildren
  • 4:10 WHAT ENERGY DRINK BANS HAVE WORKED – Canada’s Energy Drink Law
  • 4:45 Australia New Zealand Food Authority – Formulated Caffeinated Beverage Law
  • 5:26 Taiwan Energy Drink Law
  • 5:47 Brazil Energy Drink Law
  • 6:05 EU (+ UK?) Energy Drink Law for “High Caffeine Content” label

REFERENCES

  • Mitchell, Diane C., et al. “Beverage Caffeine Intakes in the U.S.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 63, 2014, pp. 136–142., doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.10.042.
  • “Press Clips: Indiana Lawmakers Seek Ban on Energy Drink Sales to Minors.” BevNET.com, 7 Mar. 2019, www.bevnet.com/news/2019/press-clips-indiana-lawmakers-seek-ban-on-energy-drink-sales-to-minors.
  • Indiana General Assembly. “Indiana General Assembly.” Indiana General Assembly, 2019 Session, iga.in.gov/documents/5c4b9b92.
  • https://www.caffeineinformer.com/energy-drink-ban-the-beginning-of-the-end
  • Energy Drinks: An Assessment of Their Market Size, Consumer Demographics, Ingredient Profile, Functionality, and Regulations in the United States – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2010.00111.x
  • Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492310

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Danielle Robertson Rath is a food scientist, consultant, speaker, and the founder of GreenEyedGuide.com. Her book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” is widely considered the ultimate resource for caffeine drinkers everywhere. Danielle aka “GreenEyedGuide” started studying energy drinks while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in food science. She has been fascinated by caffeinated beverages and their ingredients ever since.

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Book GreenEyedGuide as a guest speaker – here

Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE

 

 

Why You Could Get Carded for Buying a V8 – GreenEyedGuide On Energy Drink Bans

[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:

 

  

http://vfusionplusenergy.com/FAQ/
Caffeine in Red Bull [Caffeine Informer]

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

See Also

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