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Energy drinks to remain widely available, despite new federal rules

Lee Richardson | CUP Ontario Bureau Chief | News | October 17th, 2011

TORONTO (CUP) — Students won't be forced to visit a pharmacy to buy energy drinks after certain proposed regulations were recently turned down by the federal government, though consumers will see some smaller changes to familiar products over the next couple of years.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced new regulations surrounding the creation and sale of energy drinks across the country - though the products will still be available in the same stores in which consumers can currently find them. The initial recommendation to restrict the sale of energy drinks to pharmacies originated from a Health Canada expert panel that issued a report that also suggested energy drinks should be renamed "stimulant drug containing drinks."

"I think the question is not 'Should these be sold on campuses?' but 'How should they be sold?'" said Toronto Public Health dietitian Didem Varol. "There's pretty much enough consensus out there to say, 'Look, this is something that we should take with caution, so if we're going to offer these on campuses, what can we do to make sure that harm is minimized to students?'"

Despite the rejection of the panel's initial pharmacy-sale recommendations, Health Canada's new regulations will limit the amount of caffeine in energy drinks to 180 mg in a single serving. As the government's decision now considers energy drinks as foods instead of natural health products, new labels indicating nutritional information are now required. Warnings highlighting the health concerns of mixing the drinks with alcohol will also have to be present.

"It might be wise to not let them be sold in bars because that seems to be the big problem," suggested Ryerson University Early Childhood Education student Meagan Salsbury. "If they're that concerned, I think it would make more sense to make them (only available to those 19 years old) and over, like cigarettes."

Labels will also have to indicate the amount of caffeine in the product. The new regulation of energy drinks as a food means that they can be subjected to stricter government rulings.

The new regulations also dictate that the companies that produce energy drinks will have to let Health Canada know of any consumer complaints regarding their drinks, as well as provide more information around the sale and consumption of the drinks.

"I get where they're coming from, but I don't think it's that big of a deal," said Ryerson Business Management student Anthony Volpe. "It's consumers who are doing it wrong, not the producers or the sellers, so the regulation is smart."

Energy drink companies will be expected to meet the new federal regulations over the next 18 to 24 months.
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