An industry group representing Canada's beverage makers is striking back against a new report calling for highly-caffeinated energy drinks to be regulated like tobacco or alcohol.
The report, published in the journal Pediatrics, warns that energy drinks can be potentially dangerous for young people because they contain high amounts of caffeine and could lead to heart palpitations, seizures, stroke or even sudden death.
But Refreshments Canada, an industry association, said in a statement released Monday the new report "does nothing more than spread misinformation" about energy drinks. The group argues that energy drinks typically contain similar amounts of caffeine to a cup of coffee and that they aren't recommended for children.
However, medical experts say children and teens are major consumers of energy drinks, which is why their sale should be regulated.
Energy drinks, such as Red Bull or Rockstar, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as a growing number of medical professionals sound the alarm over the risks posed to teens and children who consume them.
For instance, a 250-ml bottle of Coca-Cola contains 26 milligrams of caffeine, according to the company's web site. But a 75-ml bottle of Rockstar "energy shot" contains 200 mg of caffeine. A 355-ml can of Red Bull contains 113.6 mg of caffeine.
Health Canada says children between 10 and 12 should not consume more than 85 mg of caffeine a day (children 4 to 6 should not exceed 45 mg, while those 7 to 9 should not exceed 62.5 mg). Healthy adults shouldn't consume more than 400 mg a day, the department says.
Medical experts are concerned because young people may drink several energy drinks a day without realizing the potential harm caused by consuming such high amounts of caffeine.
An editorial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last summer also questioned the tactics of energy drink companies, such as Rockstar, which sponsors off-road racing and other events that often have a large young audience. The editorial called for the federal government to step in and regulate energy drinks.
In Canada, energy drinks are considered natural health products and are supposed to be reviewed by Health Canada. However, due to a backlog in the department, many energy drinks on the market haven't been reviewed by the government.
Health Canada has hinted that it is considering placing increasing scrutiny on energy drinks.