Celebrity chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver is urging the government to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, and wants to see the products regulated like cigarettes.
“We have to do this,” says Oliver, according to the Mirror. “Because these drinks are turning our kids into addicts. Their use is, to my mind, akin to drugs.”
Oliver, who has spearheaded efforts to fight diet-related disease in children, supports calls by the National Education Union to put in place an age limit of 16 on all energy drink sales, according to the Independent.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) January 5, 2018
He told the Daily Record of a nutrition campaign in which he stood at school gates with dinner vouchers, offering to swap them for energy drinks the children were bringing into school in their bags.
“Back then, I’d say I was finding energy drinks in about one in four lunch boxes of primary school kids,” he said.
“But since then their use has become prolific.”
Teachers say children “high” on energy drinks in the classroom are highly disruptive to their own learning and to that of their classmates.
“It’s horrific. And it’s just wrong. But it is happening in hundreds of schools in Britain every day,” says Oliver, reportedly describing a scene in an educational facility in Norwood, south-east London.
He’s fighting for a total ban on sale of energy drinks to under-16s.
TONIGHT on #FridayNightFeast @Channel4 8pm – ENERGY DRINKS! We’ve been hearing it from the front line – teachers, parents – energy drinks are #NotForChildren! Tweet & tell the Health Secretary, @Jeremy_Hunt, that he needs to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16! pic.twitter.com/XeDrQS4hzO
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) January 5, 2018
Many energy drinks brands contain 160mg of caffeine per 500ml. According to Oliver, a 10-year-old should not consume more than 99mg per day.
“You’ve got kids doing the secret buying and paying for them, then there’s how they hide it when they get a low, how they take it again at lunch to get up again, drinking it before bed so they have broken sleep,” Oliver told the Mirror.
He says the energy drinks industry is a huge business worth a whopping £1.5billion ($2billion).
And while manufacturers say they take steps to discourage kids from consuming their products, such as by placing “Not recommended for children” warning labels, Jamie claims the colours and imagery on cans, as well as the marketing message, is aimed at children.
“When we see people from the drinks industry they all say, ‘Oh, we completely agree, we must not market these to children’. But I know they know what proportion of their growth is from kids. I’d say 25 percent of their business is now from under-16 year olds.”
Oliver dismisses charges of overregulation.
“There’s all this chitter chatter about regulation, but really it’s just saying to the big guys: ‘Behave yourselves. And treat our kids right.’”
And he believes this is a campaign that can be won.
“No, we can do this, mate,” he says. “We are clawing back some ground. And if we can land a victory on this, then there can be more to come.”