Melbourne: A group representing the energy drink industry has dismissed calls for greater regulation of the beverages, saying that they are no more dangerous than coffee.
Researchers from the University of Sydney and the NSW Poisons Information Centre have called for all energy drinks to carry warning labels, and the Australian Medical Association is calling for age-restrictions on the drinks, after a worrying rise in the number of teenagers becoming ill.
However, the energy drinks group has said that the teens who were being admitted to emergency rooms after overdosing on energy drinks amounted to just “0.00001 per cent of the population”.
The poisons hotline has received a four-fold increase in calls relating to the high-sugar drinks.
According to experts, teenagers are being “poisoned” by the drinks and suffering hallucinations, seizures and cardiac problems.
Research by the Poisons Information Centre shows that the average age of those becoming ill is 17, but youths as young as 15 have also overdosed.
Stephen Parnis, the vice-president of AMA Victoria, said that people did not realise the serious health repercussions of energy drinks some of which had the same amount of caffeine as 10 or 20 cups of coffee.
“Warning labels would be the very bare minimum that should be done,’ the Herald Sun quoted him as saying.
“I would think that preventing sales of these drinks to people under 18 is something that we need to look at very seriously.
“Poisoning is not too strong a word to use for the effects of these drinks on some people.
“I have seen teenagers present in emergency with heart rates of 200 beats per minute or so stimulated that their behaviour is extremely distressing to their parents and the people around them,” he said.
The Australian Beverages Council has dismissed calls for greater regulation, saying energy drinks in Australia were already the most heavily regulated in the world.
“Personal responsibility needs to be considered and trying to regulate against the lack of a common sense or over-consumption of a perfectly safe product by 0.00001 per cent of the population isn``t a position supported by the industry,” Geoff Parker, the council Chief Executive, said in a statement.
Parker said that consumers already had adequate information because the drinks were already labelled as carrying caffeine.
He said that the amount of caffeine in Australian energy drinks was comparable to that in “a common cup of coffee”.
“If indeed caffeine over-consumption is the concern of the researchers then the proposed review of labelling and sale provisions should be extended for all cups of coffee, pots of tea and all chocolate bars,” Parker added.