Energy drinks marketed to children: Senate report

Safety

2014-12-30-Report_BuzzKill_EnergyDrinks_ScreenV_Page_01A new Senate report finds that most energy drink companies market to children under age 18, despite their own commitments to stop advertising to kids.

Buzz Kill: A Survey of Popular Energy Drinks Finds Majority of the Market Unwilling to Make Commitments to Protect Adolescents is part of an ongoing investigation by senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians agree that children should not consume energy drinks. And the companies themselves don’t deny the risks. A 16 oz. can of Rockstar Energy Drink we purchased includes a warning label that it is not recommended for children. But according to the report, the U.S government does not have guidelines on a safe level of caffeine consumption for children, relying instead on industry self-policing and voluntary commitments.

In response to a 2013 hearing on the subject, major companies Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar agreed to voluntarily stop marketing to children. The report is the result of the responses received to 16 letters sent to energy drink companies after the hearing to questions about their advertising practices.

The report finds that while all companies are committed to not targeting children under age 12, companies that represent 90 percent of the market refuse to make that same promise for children 13-18. One of the companies would not commit to not sell their products in K-12 school settings, and two other companies would not include contractual language with distributors to prevent the same.

The report recommends that all energy drink manufactures should end marketing to all children under age 18, including sales of energy drinks in K-12 school settings. It also recommends that government agencies should explore restrictions on sales in schools, such as USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” standards.

Read the report here.