Toxicologist call for tighter regulation on energy drinks following research findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th January 2012

Caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption is increasing in Australia, particularly among adolescents, according to new research published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.

The scientists behind the research, Dr Naren Gunja, a clinical senior toxicologist at the University of Sydney, and Dr Jared Brown, senior poisons specialist at the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre, say the figures would justify tightening of regulation for caffeinated energy drinks in Australia.

Their research focused on calls made to the NSW Poisons Information Centre between 2004 and 2011.

According to the research, 297 of the calls related to adverse reactions to drinking energy drinks. 128 of the callers required hospitalisation. The number of calls relating to energy drink consumption increased from 12 calls in 2004 to 64 calls in 2010.

The most common symptoms reported were palpitations, agitation, tremor and gastrointestinal upset. Twenty-one of the 297 subjects had signs of serious cardiac or neurological toxicity, including hallucinations, seizures, arrhythmias or cardiac ischaemia.

Dr Gunja said, “Given the clear evidence of toxicity and the growing number of hospitalisations associated with consumption of energy drinks, particularly with adolescents, health authorities should increase awareness of the problem, improve package labelling and regulate caffeine content.

“We recommend that labelling and any marketing of these products should include appropriate health warnings and the national poisons hotline number (13 11 26 in Australia).

“Energy drinks are marketed for similar effects and should carry similar warning labels as non-prescription, over-the-counter caffeine tablets.”

The regulation of caffeinated energy drinks is currently under consideration by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

Reference can be made to Australian Food News article on 17 November 2011.

“This review of regulation is timely and essential,” Dr Gunka added.