Gov't may clamp down on energy drink sales to minors

Health Ministry also warns about mixing beverages with alcohol.

November 22, 2010 04:20
2 minute read.
VARIOUS kinds of energy drinks on sale

Energy drink cans 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A warning about caffeine-filled “energy drinks” that are consumed to excess was issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday, with the ministry adding it might limit their sale only to those over 18, like alcoholic beverages.

The ministry said that youngsters already get high amounts of caffeine from cola drinks, flavored water drinks, chocolate and pills. It is a pharmacology substance that increases alertness and relieves tiredness, expands and constrict blood vessels, reduces or increases headaches, raises blood pressure and increases urine production.

Excess consumption can cause irregular heartbeat, headaches, insomnia, irritation, tension, dehydration, anxiety, appetite loss, diarrhea, shaky hands, dizziness and an increased risk of addiction to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and cannabis. Younger children are more liable to have these reactions than adults.

Energy drinks also seriously damage the teeth due to their sugar and acid.

Many young people, meanwhile, have been mixing energy drinks with alcoholic beverages to neutralize depressive symptoms that can result from drinking alcohol, the ministry said.

This dangerous combination can increase undesirable sexual activity, driving when drunk, fights and physical harm.

Among the ingredients in energy drinks are high concentrations of caffeine, as well as taurine, guarana, acai, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, maltodextrin, inositol, carnitine, creatine and glucuronolactone. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration recently expressed its concern that some are being made with alcohol mixed in, and this combination has already caused illness and even deaths.

The first drink marketed to improve the performance of athletes and sports stars appeared in the 1960s. It was invented for the football team at the University of Florida, known as the Gators, and was named Gatorade.

The ministry said that here, the price of Red Bull – released in 1987 – has become so cheap (about NIS 2.5 a can) that it’s widely consumed by children and teenagers. Other companies offering similar drinks have followed. The drinks are aggressively marketed to young people and are available in supermarkets, kiosks, vending machines, cafeterias and elsewhere.

The ministry has put warnings on energy drinks relating to their high level of caffeine and discourages pregnant women and children under 12 from consuming them at all. But it said that it is working on additional activities, including working with the Education Ministry to discuss the dangers in schools and warn parents, teachers and young people.

Red Bull was banned in France after the death of 18-year-old Irish athlete Ross Cooney, who died as a result of playing a basketball game after consuming four cans of the drink, but the ban was challenged in the European Court of Justice in 2004.

Denmark also banned Red Bull for a while, but the ban was recently revoked due to protests.

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