The New Zealand Beverage Council has expressed its disappointment at Countdown's decision to restrict the sales of energy drinks to young people under the age of 16.
Council spokesperson Stephen Jones said there was no evidence to support Countdown's decision given New Zealand already has some of the strongest energy drink regulations in the world, and the evidence shows these regulations are working well.
"While we respect the right of Countdown to make this decision, this really is a case of a solution looking for a problem," said Jones. "Independent research from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand shows that energy drinks contribute less than three percent of the overall caffeine intake of young people aged between 9 and 15. This low-level of consumption is evidence that the existing framework around the sale and marketing of energy drinks is effective and that . young people are consuming caffeine from sources other than energy drinks. Labelling regulations in New Zealand also require energy drinks to display a caffeine content warning as well as an advisory statement that energy drinks are not recommended for young people. The ingredients in energy drinks have been proven to be safe and have been approved by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. But, like all beverages containing caffeine they should be consumed in moderation."
According to Jones, this is particularly the case for young people, which is why New Zealand Beverage council members have committed to not market to children and to not sell energy drinks directly to schools.
"While it is laudable for retailers to look at ways to help improve the diets of young people, it makes little sense to put in restrictions targeting a single product that contributes less than three percent of a young person's caffeine intake. A wide range of products contain caffeine and instead of focusing on energy drinks, we would prefer to work together to focus on understanding how and why children are accessing caffeine and what we can all do to better educate consumers about the caffeine content across all food categories.”
The New Zealand Beverage Council recently released a series of commitments around the marketing and promotion of energy drinks, including committing members to not market to children or promote excessive consumption.