Should energy and sugary drinks be allowed to claim on their labels that the caffeine in them boosts alertness and concentration? Parliament's public health and food safety committee fears this could affect children and teenagers, who are the main consumers of energy drinks. On Wednesday 15 June, committee members discuss whether to vote against a European Commission proposal allowing this. We talked to Christel Schaldemose, in charge of steering the plans through Parliament, why she opposes it.
In the EU claims that a food product benefits your health - for example by reducing your weight or boosting your immune system - can only be stated on a label if it has been scientifically proved. The European Food Safety Authority is responsible for evaluating the scientific evidence.
The Commission now wants to allow health claims on caffeine, except for medicine and products for children and teens. However, this could lead to them being put on energy drinks, which are mainly used by adolescents. These drinks contain high levels of sugar and a high consumption of sugar at a young age could lead to increased sugar consumption later in life. Energy drinks have also been linked to sleep problems, headaches and behavioural problems in young people who regularly use them.
All the more reason for Schaldemose, a Danish member of the S&D group, to not allow these health claims on the labels of energy drinks. "From statistics we know that a lot of young people and even children are drinking a lot of these energy drinks," she said. "So it's not just the caffeine, it's also that energy drinks contain a lot of sugar as well. And we don't think that these kind of drinks should have any kind of health claims put on them."
Schaldemose added that it was not about banning energy drinks for young people, but about not telling them that they would perform better at school: "We're not going to say that adults should not drink coffee or energy drinks. We just don't want to [help companies] earn a lot of money on a health claim that we think is not suited for young kids."