Pediatricians and parents are calling for the U.S. to treat new high-caffeine energy drinks like alcohol and cigarettes and ban their sale to minors as a single serving can contain as much caffeine as six Coca-Colas.
Prime Energy, which launched this year, has 200 mg of caffeine within its 350 ml can — exceeding permissible caffeine levels in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Rival products like Anheuser Busch InBev-backed Ghost energy drinks and Kim Kardashian’s “Kimade” energy drink also have 200 mg of caffeine. Competitor Monster Energy contains 150 mg of caffeine.
As caffeine content in energy drinks has climbed over the years, some countries and retailers have banned the products while a few require proof of age for purchase. In the U.S. and UK, no national regulations ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks.
Without legal age mandates like those on alcohol and cigarettes, retailers are unlikely to restrict access, said Dr. Holly Benjamin, a professor of pediatrics and orthopedic surgery at the University of Chicago. There is no proven safe dose of caffeine for children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Retailers could choose to place sports drinks and energy drinks in different locations and label the sections differently; but, I think that is unlikely to happen without regulation which starts with better product labeling and widespread education,” Dr. Benjamin said.
She added: “Any energy drink with a high dose caffeine in it, such as Prime Energy, is unsafe for children.”
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Side effects for kids consuming caffeine could include rapid or irregular heartbeats, headaches, seizures, shaking, stomach upset and adverse emotional effects on mental health, she said.
The FDA is currently reviewing a request by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to investigate the caffeine content in Prime Energy, as well as its marketing to kids, a spokesperson said.
Prime representatives declined to comment. Ghost Energy, Monster Energy didn’t return messages seeking comment. Congo Brands, which owns Kimade, Alani Nu and Prime Energy, also did not respond to requests seeking comment.