Sign Up and Be Counted


As I drink my second cup of coffee for the day and write to you about our petition to ban the sale of energy drinks (EDs) to children under 18, I ponder discussions with my own children on this subject and the possible side effects of consuming too many. Their oft touted and very quick responses were along the lines of “no worse than your coffee, mum” and “the label says I can have….”

I thought about uttering the old “do as I say, not as I do” but reminded myself of the equally old “practice what you preach”, so decided instead to do some research. After locating my visual aids and a good source of light, the label lists ingredients such as….caffeine, sugar, taurine, herbal supplements, ephedrine, ginseng, guarana, etc. Some are found naturally and in all sorts of places, apparently.

Further reading from other sources indicates that by far the biggest issue is the amount of caffeine and the adverse effects when consumed in the quantities found in most EDs; insomnia, headache, rapid heart rate, nervousness, hypertension, anxiety, diarrhoea and caffeine dependence. The average energy drink contains 160 – 300mg caffeine per 500 ml serve. Coffee has 80 – 160mg and tea 40 – 120mg for an equivalent amount i.e. two cups.

Studies show that young teenagers who frequently consume these drinks on their way to school are more disruptive in class, have poor concentration and some have been admitted to hospital suffering heart palpitations. My morning coffee doesn’t do that and what happened to good old Weet Bix for energy?

A recent paper printed in the Medical Journal of Australia (Med J Aust 2012; 196 (1): 46-49) has shown that since 2004 there has been a 357% increase* in the number of calls made to the NSW Poisons Information Centre reporting caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption among adolescents. The median age of these callers was 17 years and more than half of all calls were due solely to energy drink consumption – without alcohol.

photo_2030_20061012Another statistic: the sale of energy drinks is growing by more than 8 per cent a year. Last year they made up more than 35 per cent of all drinks sold in convenience stores, outdoing soft drinks, which came in at 31.5%. Interestingly, the Food Standards Code limits caffeine in soft drinks to a maximum of 145 milligrams/kg and our advice is that the industry has committed to no ‘direct marketing and advertising of EDs to children’. Yet they are sold on the same shelves, from the same outlets with no restrictions.

If, like me, you think we should clip those wings, then you might like to sign our petition. You’ll find details of your closest branch here, even in the city, so give them a call.

Time for a cup of…..tea, I think 🙂

* Percentage increase is from 65 reports in 2004 to 297 in 2010 – of which at least 128 cases
required hospitalisation.