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Country women invigorate energy drink ban idea

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The influential Country Women’s Association has joined calls for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children and teenagers.

In a major fillip for campaigners concerned about the long-term health effects of drinks high in sugar and caffeine on developing bodies and minds, the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales has submitted a petition with 13,600 signatures to Federal Parliament calling for a ban on energy drink sales to everyone younger than 18 years.

“Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine mixed with ingredients like taurine, guarana, glucoronolactone and ginseng, which elevate the heart rate and blood pressure, and disrupt sleep,” CWA NSW President Tanya Cameron said. “Who knows what damage, over time, this causes a developing body and mind?”

Ms Cameron said society already shielded children from alcohol and tobacco, and energy drinks should be added to the list.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said doctors shared the CWA’s concerns, noting an “alarming” number of cases of young people suffering caffeine toxicity following the consumption of energy drinks.

 “We are very concerned about the number of teenagers being adversely affected by energy drinks,” Dr Hambleton told Medical Observer. “The dangers of over-consumption are significant, and I think many parents and teenagers are unaware of the risks.”

The AMA and the CWA have highlighted inconsistencies in food standards that limit the amount of caffeine in soft drinks to a maximum of 145 milligrams per kilogram but impose no similar limit on energy drinks.

The petition was presented to Parliament by Parkes MP Mark Coulton, who said the CWA had a “good understanding” of issues and concerns important to the community.

But peak industry group the Australian Beverages Council dismissed calls for a ban on energy drink sales to children as “misguided and lacking evidence”.

The Council said its members abided by a strict policy of only marketing energy drinks to adults, and cited the results of a Government study which it claimed showed that less than 4 per cent of the caffeine consumed by teenagers came from energy drinks, with the greatest proportion coming from coffee, tea and chocolate milk.

But Ms Cameron said sales of energy drinks were growing strongly, and in 2013 they comprised more than 35 per cent of all drinks sold in convenience stores – eclipsing soft drink sales (31.5 per cent).

Adrian Rollins