Energy Drinks: An Emerging Public Health Hazard for Youth

Better labeling and more stringent regulation are warranted for energy drinks.

Sales of energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine and “novel” ingredients are on the rise in the United States and pose a potential health hazard for youth.

While energy drinks labeled as beverages must comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nutrition labeling, some are mislabeled as dietary supplements, which have less stringent requirements. In either case, manufacturers are not required to disclose caffeine content. Caffeine and other energy drink ingredients, such as guarana and taurine, have been linked to toxicity and emergency department visits by youth.

These authors recommend that the U.S. government take several actions to protect and inform consumers about the ingredients and risks of energy drinks, among them:

  • Drinks should be labeled as beverages, and include information about caffeine content and warnings that their use is not intended for children under age 12.
  • Sales should be restricted by age or by product placement in stores, such as behind the counter.
  • Companies should cease marketing energy drinks to youth.

Parents support such actions. According to a 2011 study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, 85 percent of parents think energy drink labels should include caffeine content and warnings.