Scottish hospitals to ban high-energy drink sales to under-16s

Many supermarkets are already restricting sales of high-caffeine drinks. Picture: Robert Perry
Many supermarkets are already restricting sales of high-caffeine drinks. Picture: Robert Perry
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The sale of high-energy drinks to under-16s is being banned in hospital retail units in Scotland.

The restriction, introduced by the Scottish Government, will apply to drinks with an added caffeine content of more than 150mg/litre – half the amount contained in a litre of Red Bull.

New restrictions on baby food are also being introduced to ensure healthy eating behaviour is instilled at the earliest possible stage. Products will have to contain no added sugar or salt and be unsweetened.

The change is the latest update to the Healthcare Retail Standard, a set of criteria that all retailers in NHS sites in Scotland must adhere to. It aims to increase the amount of healthier food and drinks in shops in NHS buildings, with tighter rules around what can be promoted.

The ban on energy drinks will be matched by all NHS-run catering sites. The Scottish Government is to consult soon on restricting the sale of energy drinks to those aged under 16. Most major supermarkets and retailers have already introduced voluntary bans to stop selling the drinks to young people.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “The Healthcare Retail Standard (HRS) supports healthier eating across the NHS estate and it is right that our hospitals show a lead in providing food and drink which is health promoting. The HRS ensures that at least 50 per cent of food and 70 per cent of drinks on sale are healthier options. “This supports the Scottish Government’s strategy of working to improve Scotland’s diet and tackle health inequalities.”

Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, which has lobbied for a blanket ban on energy drink sales to children, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government ban on sales of energy drinks to under-16s in hospital shops and NHS catering outlets. It is absolutely right that products which are labelled ‘not suitable for children’ are not sold to under-16s.

“There is plenty of evidence of the health and behavioural problems associated with heavy consumption of high caffeine energy drinks by children – from obesity to tooth decay, and hyperactivity or aggression to energy crashes and slumps. So why just do this on NHS sites, why not ban their sale to children everywhere?”

She added: “Many large retailers have already implemented policies not to sell energy drinks to under-16s and it’s time for governments to make this a universal policy applicable to every type of shop, café and vending machine. These drinks are not for children.”

Last week, soft drinks firm AG Barr said it was launching a new Irn-Bru energy drink in the summer, which will contain 320mg of caffeine per litre – describing the sector as a “fast-growing, exciting” market. According to the British Soft Drinks Association, a typical cup of filter coffee contains 450mg of caffeine per litre.