The Parliament debated last night a Commission amendment to Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health. The vote on the objection is scheduled for today in the afternoon.

The Commission´s draft measure authorises health claims on caffeine relating to an increase in endurance performance, an increase in endurance capacity, increased alertness and improved concentration.

There are concerns however about the adverse effects this could have on consumers, especially on young people. Energy drinks have a high sugar and caffeine content and they are known to cause headaches, sleep problems and behavioural problems on young people who regularly consume them.

GUE/NGL MEP Lynn Boylan spoke on the objection which urges the Commission to place restrictions on the marketing of energy drinks to children and adolescents:

“Growth in the energy drinks market has boomed and children and teenagers are some of the biggest consumers. Warning labels are being ignored whilst the industry’s code of practice, which is merely voluntary anyway, only commits it not to market energy drinks to children under 12.”

“We already know that the 10-18 years old age group is actually the one most likely to drink these products and significantly, 20 percent of under-tens have also confirmed they drink them. Clearly the industry needs to work a bit harder to turn nice words into real action to stop their products being marketed to children,” the Irish MEP affirmed.

Boylan highlighted the dangers of energy drinks and condemned the Commission for doing the opposite of what it should be doing:

“The sugar content contained within individual cans is unbelievable.  A regular sized 250ml can, which you can buy for 49 cents, alone can contain up to 27g of sugar meaning a child could already be over its daily recommended limit for sugar by consuming just one of them.”

“Unbelievably, the Commission wants to approve health claims on these high-caffeine high-sugar energy drinks. Energy drinks have no nutritional benefit for children. The use of these so-called ‘health claims’ gives kids and teenagers the wrong impression who could legitimately believe that they will improve their attention in class or performance in school.”

Under Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 (the “Health Claims Regulation”), the Commission was supposed to establish nutrient profiles by January 2009, with which foods must comply in order to bear health claims, but it has so far failed to do so.

“Instead of pushing forward with health claims which help to promote these energy products, the Commission must stop dragging its heels and come forward with the nutrient profiles which have already been agreed upon in legislation instead of giving energy drinks a leg up on the market,” Boylan concluded.  

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