Regulations on energy drinks and alcohol tighten

Posted by Janice Wong on 13th May 2010

Concerns that regulations are tightening on venues come after The West Australian today reports that a pub in Perth’s city centre will not be permitted to serve alcohol mixed with energy drinks in the closing two hours of operation on weekends. The ban comes from WA Liquor Commission and could be extended to other venues.

The pub, Impact Bar has been banned from serving alcohol mixed with energy drinks between midnight and its 2am closing time on weekends. The restriction came with the pub’s successful renewed application to extend trading hours on weekends from midnight to 2am.

According to reports, the director of Liquor Licensing, Barry Sargeant, wants to place similar restrictions across more  licensed venues in Perth in a bid to solve alcohol-related violence. However Impact Bar owner Tony Taylor has responded that his venue has not had problems in the past relating to alcohol-related violence. He believes his venue is well-managed and does not understand why the commission would restrict non-alcoholic beverages such as energy drinks.

WA Night Clubs Association vice-president Tim Brown yesterday said that these kinds of restrictions do not address the issues of alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour “in any real way”, saying most incidents happened on the streets. Before the restrictions were imposed, many venues used strategies to ward off unwanted patrons such as door fees, doormen, identity scanning and refusing entry and service to customers who were intoxicated, Mr Brown said.

But Mr Sargeant from the commission yesterday pushed evidence at the inquiry in which he said although alcohol restrictions were not the only solution to address alcohol-related issues, it was a “very good kickstart”.

Current regulations on caffeine in energy drinks

Caffeine used as a stimulant is permitted in Australia under the standard for Formulated Caffeinated Beverages at levels between 145 and 320 mg/L. Product Labels must indicate the caffeine content in milligrams and carry a mandatory advisory statement.

Australia’s leading Food Law expert Joe Lederman, managing principal of specialist food industry law firm FOODLEGAL released a report in February 2010 regarding some of the legal risks of adding caffeine to food.

An investigation by The New South Wales Food Authority (NSWFA) found  77% of caffeinated energy drinks contained more than the amount of caffeine permitted by the Food Standards Code.  The NSWFA also prompted the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (the body that sets food policy and ultimate responsibility for the contents of the Food Standards Code) to review the available scientific evidence on caffeine which could result in an update of the Policy Guideline on the Addition of Caffeine to Foods and amendments to existing caffeine permissions in the Food Standards Code. Furthermore, The Ministerial Council has agreed to develop a national compliance plan on the regulation of “energy drinks” so that the NSWFA’s investigation could soon become a national issue for suppliers.

Mr Lederman says that in comparison to many other overseas jurisdictions, Australia has very strict regulations applying to the addition of caffeine to “food” products. This is partially due to the fact that the Food Standards Code treats caffeine as a food additive. By way of comparison, international food standards as espoused by Codex Alimentarius do not list caffeine as
a food additive.

Product liability issues associated with caffeine

There is another concern related to highly-caffeinated food products. The Formulated Caffeinated Beverages Standard has a number of mandatory advisory statements that must be included on the product’s label in relation to the caffeine and vitamin content of the product. The objective of this Standard is to protect consumers who may be sensitive to caffeine or suffer adverse consequences as a result of over-consumption.