Published on March 29, 2017 | by Aastha Shetty Photography by Austin Kirk0
Energy drinks still allowed on city property
Toronto councilors have chosen to back away from the proposed ban on the sale of caffeinated energy drinks on city property, such as recreational centres, parks, stadiums, and public squares.
On Tuesday, councilors voted 37-4 to simply ask distributors to consider not selling energy drinks to those under 18. This is despite the various requests for a harsher regulation on caffeinated energy drinks that came out of a Board of Health meeting last week. The meeting was held at city hall after the Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, published an updated report on the effects of caffeinated energy drinks.
In the report, Yaffe asked the municipality to put stronger regulations on the sale of caffeinated energy drinks. The report also recommended that the city should also consider the complete ban on the sale of energy drinks, following in the footsteps of municipalities like Brampton, Waterloo and Oshawa.
Dr. Robert Mann, the senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), said that there is some research that suggests that energy drinks are risky for teens. He said that teens are attracted to caffeinated energy drinks because of the way they are marketed.
Schoolteacher Craig Johnson agreed. He said he had seen, first-hand, how caffeinated energy drinks affected his students’ health.
“Look at the cartoons. Look at the label, look how it gives you wings! Look where it goes.. you see it in motorcross, the X Games, things like this,” Johnson said, referring to various youth-oriented sports events.
On the other hand, Jim Goetz, the president of the Canadian Beverage Association, says that the amount of caffeine found in energy drinks should not be concerning.
“Energy drinks are merely a drop in the bucket of how much caffeine Canadians consume,” Goetz said, referring to previously published studies.
The study Goetz was referring to revealed that energy drinks contain roughly half the caffeine content of an equivalent amount of coffee. The study, called Energy Drinks: An Assessment of the Potential Health Risks in the Canadian Context, concluded that a typical energy drink “would not pose a health hazard in the short term.”
But Johnson said the problem is greater than just caffeine content.
“What is not mentioned is that there is a mix of taurine and guarana in energy drinks as well, which, when mixed with caffeine, can have alternate effects,” he said.
Taurine and guarana are thought to be ingredients that can unnaturally quicken the heartbeat and are also sometimes used in weight-loss products. There are currently not a lot of studies done on these two ingredients by the FDA and they are not considered to have any medicinal value. The side-effects of mixing taurine and guarana with other stimulants such as caffeine is cautioned against but the long term effects are still relatively unknown.
The city of Toronto currently requires caffeinated energy drinks to be sold with a label that indicates the product is not intended to be mixed with alcohol. However, the bylaw has faced criticism from health officials for being an ineffective warning label, especially for teens.
The four councilors who had voted against passing a watered-down version of the energy drink bylaw are Glenn De Baeremaeker, Joe Cressy, Norm Kelly and Frances Nunziata.