Plans by the European Commission to allow claims that sugary drinks and energy drinks containing caffeine boost alertness or concentration have been vetoed by the European Parliament.
The parliament said such claims would have led to higher sugar consumption among adolescents — the largest group of energy drink consumers.
A show of hands approved the motion to veto the new claims, and the commission will now have to make a new proposal.
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune said she supported the veto because a strong stance had to be taken.
“As adults, we need to protect young people as best we can against misleading marketing,” said Ms Clune.
Independent MEP Nessa Childers stressed it was not a “nanny-state” prohibition. “Energy drinks are and will remain fully available on the market, but I see no reason why we should let them tout their stimulant properties on the label,” said Ms Childers.
Earlier this year, a Safefood report into energy drinks in Ireland revealed a massive increase in the number available since 2002, with some brands containing up to 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Young men aged between 15 and 24 were the highest consumers of energy drinks (64%) that have 20% of the soft drinks market in Ireland.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Safefoods director of human health and nutrition, said energy drinks were unsuitable for children under 16, or for rehydration purposes following sports.
Louise Reynolds, a dietitian with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI), said the veto was a positive move for consumer protection. “The drinks are generally very high in sugar and caffeine so the INDI does not recommend them, particularly for children aged under 16,” said Ms Reynolds.
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