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Labour pledges action on energy drinks and child health

The Labour Party has unveiled election pledges to bring in a new children's health and weight strategy, with measures including banning sales of high caffeine, high sugar energy drink, and bringing in the 9pm watershed and online advertising restrictions for unhealthy food and drink. Children's Food Campaign responds.

Energy drinks carry warning labels saying "Not suitable for children". Credit: Joenomias | Pixabay

Energy drinks carry warning labels saying "Not suitable for children". Credit: Joenomias | Pixabay

In response to Labour pledges on children’s health, Children’s Food Campaign manager Barbara Crowther says:

“We applaud Labour for putting children’s health at the core of their future strategy. It ought to be easy for children to eat healthily, but it isn’t. The job of parents is made so much harder when families are constantly deluged by unhealthy food and drink advertising and promotion. All evidence points to heavily caffeinated energy drinks being harmful to children's physical and mental health.

“It’s perverse that sugary high caffeine energy drinks can be sold directly to children, despite being required to carry warnings that they’re ‘not suitable for children’. Closing that loophole makes total common sense. Energy drinks companies simply shouldn't be allowed to profit at the expense of child health.

“8 in 10 parents support a ban on sales of energy drinks to under-16s, making it a top demand of our parents’ manifesto Our Children, Our Future. Parents will be delighted to hear that their voices are finally being heard. They also want health warning labels on these drinks to be much more prominent.

“It’s over five years since the government consultation on stopping energy drinks sales to children was supported by 93% of respondents, including several supermarkets who have already implemented their own age checks for under-16s and who want to see a level playing field across all retailers. In January this year, following publication of further evidence showing even wider risks associated with high consumption of energy drinks, we and 40 other health experts wrote to both the Government and the Labour party health team asking them to act on this long overdue problem of energy drinks sales to children***.

"We’re pleased that Labour has reviewed the evidence and committed to action on energy drinks, and remains committed to introducing the 9pm watershed and online ban on unhealthy food advertising. We know no single policy that can deliver on its own. We urge all political parties to adopt a comprehensive child health strategy, using all possible levers of change including healthy school food for all, more honest labelling, incentives for a healthier food industry, action on early years infant feeding and expansion of nutritional safety nets such as Healthy Start." 

Children’s Food Campaign parent ambassadors have welcomed the news.  Aneita Lewis, who has a 12 year old, called for change in the parents’ manifesto:

“Energy drinks pose serious health risks to our children. As a parent, it’s concerning to see the ingredients in these drinks, the harm it can cause to young people and how it may contribute to rising anxiety levels too. Government regulations should limit access to under 16s to prioritise children’s health and safety.”

Parent ambassador Mezreet Rasul, who also has teenage children, responded to the news of Labour's election pledge saying: 

"As a parent to a teenager, I’m thrilled to see Labour include this in their manifesto. It’s concerning that our children can buy energy drinks so easily at the moment. These drinks can raise blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in children. It’s great to see Labour taking steps to protect the health of our kids."

Parent ambassador Dr Rounaq Nayak, also commented on the news of Labour's pledge saying: 

"Energy drinks are too easy to purchase, there’s no age restriction, the packaging is attractive to children, and they are often endorsed by leading social media influencers and sports personalities. Even my 9-year-old wants to purchase them because  friends at school drink them and talk about them. Although we explain the health impacts, children don't understand the seriousness of the situation. "

More information:

* Polling conducted by Savanta with 2,039 parents of children age 0-18. Field work took place 2-11 January 2024. More details of the polling here: 

** Our Children, Our Future, a parents’ manifesto for children’s health available here

*** Our January 2024 letter to the Government and to shadow health secretary Wes Streeting


Published Tuesday 11 June 2024

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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