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Rudd Radar

Researchers Provide Evidence to Support Regulation of Energy Drinks to Protect Youth

March 14, 2013

Citing evidence that energy drink consumption among youth is a significant public health concern, researchers from the Rudd Center support government intervention in revising labeling requirements, addressing problematic ingredients, and enacting retail restriction of energy drinks. The article is published online in the March issue of the Journal of Public Health Policy.

In their article, the authors note that energy drink consumption among youth is a concern due to high levels of caffeine and novel ingredients that are not normally found in the food supply.  The authors assert that inconsistent labeling standards make it difficult for consumers to determine what ingredients are in energy drinks and in what amount.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ‘energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.’  While energy drinks contain unknown amounts of harmful ingredients, manufactures market them to adolescents in media also viewed by children, say the authors.  Previous research conducted by the Rudd Center found that in 2010, US adolescents saw an average of 124 television ads for energy drinks and shots. Energy drink companies also target adolescents through extreme sport sponsorships and emerging social media. 

The authors reported on a 2011 survey that demonstrated parents’ concerns about energy drinks, conducted by the Rudd Center.  The survey found that 67 percent of parents were concerned about the caffeine content of beverages for their children, 78 percent agreed that energy drinks should not be marketed to children and adolescents, and 74 percent agreed that these drinks should not be sold to children or adolescents.

Given the fact that energy drinks contain harmful ingredients, have inconsistent labeling, and are heavily marketed to adolescents, coupled with parent concern and support, the authors conclude that increased regulation is warranted to protect adolescents.

“Regulation can start by addressing problematic ingredients, clarifying labeling requirements and restricting youth access by enacting retail restrictions,” says Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, lead author and Rudd Center Director of Legal Initiatives.  The authors also devised a self-regulatory strategy that could be instituted to protect vulnerable youth from marketing of energy drinks.

The study was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Director of Legal Initiatives; Christina Munsell, MS, RD, Research Associate; and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives.

The report was supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rudd Foundation.