2011.04 Caffeine in Energy Drinks

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Whereas, The caffeine content of energy drinks poses serious health risks to children and adolescents; and

Whereas, Energy drinks do not have adequate warning labels for all the additives that contain caffeine; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada in 91 st annual national convention assembled urge the federal government

•  to engage in a program of public education focusing on the harmful effects that caffeine in energy drinks has on children and adolescents; and

•  to make it mandatory for manufacturers to clearly label the total amount of caffeine from all sources in energy drinks.


BRIEF: Caffeine in Energy Drinks

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant as well as a stimulant of heart and skeletal muscles. It is also a diuretic that can accelerate water loss (Clauson et al., p.59). Health Canada advises a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 45 mg for children aged 4-6, 62.5 mg for children aged 7-9 and 85 mg for children aged 10-12. Health Canada suggests that the daily caffeine intake for adolescents be calculated to no more than 2.5 mg/kg body weight (Health Canada, Caffeine, Recommendations). Despite these ranges, the caffeine content in energy drinks is known to be as low as 50 mg per can/bottle and up to as much as 505 mg per can/bottle (Reissig, Strain, and Griffiths, p.1)

When caffeine-containing products such as energy drinks are consumed in quantities that contribute to higher than the recommended caffeine intake, or are consumed in combination with alcohol, the health effects can be harmful and even lethal. Some of the common caffeine-related symptoms experienced by consumers of energy drinks include dehydration, accelerated heart rates, anxiety, seizures, acute mania, disturbed sleep, kidney failure, impaired judgment and stroke (Pennington et al, p. 352; Health Canada, Caffeine, Health Effects).

Energy drinks are regulated in Canada under the Natural Health Products Regulations. Under the regulations, energy drink labels must advise the consumers of the recommended conditions for regular use as well as cautionary use. However, manufacturers of energy drinks do not list the caffeine in energy drinks that actually comes from the other additives containing stimulant properties, for example, guarana, kola nut, yerba mate and cocoa. Without accounting for the levels of these additives, the manufacturers are failing to fully disclose all the information needed by the consumer. Energy drinks should not be confused with sport drinks (Health Canada,Caffeine ; Health Canada, Safe Use ).

Health Canada should engage in a program of public education focusing on the health consequences of caffeine in children (MacDonald, Stanbrook, and Hebert, p. 1597). This, together with appropriate labeling, will enable consumers to make more informed choices (Health Canada, Preliminary Guidance , p. 3; Health Canada, Safe Use ).



Clauson, K., et al. Safety Issues Associated with Commercially Available Energy Drinks. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 48.3 (May/June 2008): 55-63.

<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18595815> (abstract)


Health Canada. Caffeine (It's Your Health). [Ottawa]: Health Canada, 2010.



Health Canada. Preliminary Guidance for Industry on the Labelling of Caffeine Content

in Prepackaged Foods (Food and Nutrition). Ottawa: Health Canada, March






Health Canada. Safe Use of Energy Drinks . [Ottawa]: Health Canada, 2005 (updated

August 2010).



MacDonald, Noni, Matthew Stanbrook, and Paul C. Hébert, P. “Caffeinating” Children

and Youth. Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), 182.15 (October19, 2010): 1597


Pennay, Amy, Dan I. Lubman, and Peter Miller, Combining Energy Drinks and Alcohol: a Recipe for Trouble? Australian Family Physician , 40.3 (March 2011): 104-107.

<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21597509> (abstract)


Pennington, Nicole, et al. Energy Drinks: A New Health Hazard for Adolescents. Journal of School Nursing, 26.5 (October 2010): 352-359.

<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20538866> (abstract)


Reissig, ChadJ., Eric C. Strain, and Roland R. Griffiths, Caffeinated Energy Drinks: a Growing Problem. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 99.1-3 (2009): 1-10.

<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18809264> (abstract and full text)



Requested Members' Action

•  Write letters to the prime minister, the minister of health and the local elected members of parliament, asking that Health Canada engage in a program of public education focusing on the effects of caffeine in children and to legislate stricter regulations, making it mandatory for manufacturers to clearly identify on its labels all the caffeine additives in energy drinks.

•  Write letters to the premiers, the ministers of health and the local elected members of the provincial/territorial legislatures, asking that provincial/territorial governments enact legislation that determines where, how and to whom energy drinks can be sold in a province or territory.