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Avoid Vodka Red Bull, French watchdog advises

Ben McPartland · 1 Oct 2013, 16:00

Published: 01 Oct 2013 12:46 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Oct 2013 16:00 GMT+02:00

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France has long regarded energy drinks with suspicion, and a new report released by the country’s health watchdog on Tuesday once again reveals authorities' misgivings towards beverages like Red Bull, Monster and Burn.

“Fini la vodka-Red Bull” was how one French news site summed up the report by France ‘s health watchdog ANSES (Agence nationale de securité sanitaire d’alimentation) which looked into the health risks of energy drinks.

ANSES had been tasked to look into the possible adverse health effects of the energy drinks, which on average contain an amount of caffeine equivalent to two standard espressos, AFP reports.

With figures showing nearly nine million French people consume around 40 million litres of the drinks each year, ANSES’ conclusions will not make happy reading for industry chiefs.

ANSES says, due to high caffeine content, the drinks should not be mixed with alcohol, or consumed during intensive sporting activity. Adolescents are also advised to avoid the beverages altogether, because of potentially harmful consequences to their health.

Pregnant women and children have already been advised against consuming the drinks over health concerns.

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Reacting to the report France’s consumer rights organisation CLCV called for advertising for energy drinks to be banned from sporting events and stronger rules on labelling to be enforced.

“The risks posed by the inappropriate use of these products requires a strengthening of the rules around labelling. There should be clearly visible warnings to discourage children and reminders that they are not designed for those involved in physical effort and that they should not be mixed with alcohol," CLCV said in a statement.

“We also ask for the levels of caffeine to be regulated to prevent them from reaching the levels seen in the United States. We should remind ourselves that in America energy drinks are responsible for a rise in the number of cases of caffeine intoxication and they increase the likelihood of binge drinking among young people," the organisation added.

Drinks like Red Bull were banned in France in their original recipes for 12 years over fears of adverse health effects. That ban was only lifted in 2008 when France bowed to European regulations that stipulated they should be allowed to be sold, in the absence of any proof that they are harmful.

France remained cautious, however, and then Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot asked that the drinks be kept under surveillance, and that the public be informed of their possible undesirable effects.

In its latest report on Tuesday, ANSES claims that consumption by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers can lead to delays in foetal growth. It also advises people with heart, psychological or neurological disorders to avoid the energy drinks, as well as those suffering from renal disease or liver failure.

If young people consume the drinks in excessive quantities it can lead to sleep disorders, ANSES claims, as well as a risk the adolescent will develop addictions to other substances.

According to the health watchdog, 257 cases of people having adverse reactions to the drink were reported, of which 212 could be analysed.

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The chances that energy drinks were the cause of the adverse effects was judged “likely or very likely” in 25 percent of cases, Deputy Director of ANSES Franck Fourès told AFP.

The study comes just weeks after reports in France that the government plans to introduce a special tax on energy drinks.

The tax would be aimed at discouraging young people from consuming the drinks and would allegedly pull in €12.5 million for state coffers.

The finance ministry has not confirmed the reports, but Health Minister Marisol Touraine has vowed to investigate the possibility that the advertising of energy drinks can be better regulated.

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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