Health and Wellbeing

Devon supermarkets successful in voluntary ban on energy drinks for under 16s

man holding cans of energy drinks

Posted on: 3 October 2019

A voluntary ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16-year olds in Devon supermarkets has been found to be successful following a recent exercise. 

The ‘mystery shopper’ exercise by Public Health Devon and Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards, tested how well large supermarket chains enforced the voluntary ban of energy drinks to under 16s.

The exercise was carried out as part of a Healthy Weight Declaration pledge by Devon County Council. One of the aims of the pledge is to engage more with the food and drink sector to promote healthier options and reduce sugar intake in Devon’s communities.

Of the 13 premises visited, only one sale was made to the underage mystery shopper.  The store which did not follow the voluntary ban was given advice on how to better regulate the sale of energy drinks to under 16s in the future.

The Government is currently consulting on plans to enforce a complete ban on energy drinks sales to young people under the age of 16.

The mystery shopper exercise identified several examples of retailers making positive steps to tackle poor health in young people in Devon, as well as promoting responsible retail practice regarding the sale of energy drinks.

These included:

  • Till operating systems that remind the operator to ask for ID when energy drinks sales are attempted.
  • Self-service checkouts that prevent the sale of energy drinks to users who fail to show appropriate ID.
  • Staff training to ask for ID.
  • Prominent signage in the stores to let customers know that they will be expected to present appropriate ID when buying energy drinks.

In a recent survey of members of the public in Devon, most of which were parents, 92% of people answered that they would welcome a complete ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 18s.

72.5% of respondents also said that their main concern was the effect of food and drink on their child’s dental health, with many having additional concerns about the impact on their child’s weight, behaviour and mood.

Typical energy drinks contain between 3 and 13 teaspoons of sugar per serving and having them readily available to children under the age of 16, could pose an increased risk of health problems due to the high levels of sugar and caffeine.

The negative impact of high-sugar diets on young people in Devon can clearly be seen in communities, with 1 in 5 children now starting school with tooth decay and the same living with excess weight.

Devon County Council is signing up to the Healthy Weight Declaration on 7 October 2019 which aims to help local authorities to promote health and wellbeing across the county. The Declaration includes a series of pledges that the local authority will make to help improve the accessibility of healthier food and drink choices across its organisation and across the county.

Photo of Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad Cabinet Member for Health said:

“It is great to see many supermarkets in Devon participating in a voluntary initiative such as this. The positive results of this campaign demonstrate that   retailers are recognising their social responsibility and are actively contributing to creating healthier communities.

“As a council, through the Healthy Weight Declaration, we are pledging to do more to make healthier food and drink choices more accessible, and it is good to see the impact that these pledges are already having.”

Devon County Council is looking for other businesses in the county who would like to offer their support and commitment in ensuring consumers have a choice of healthier foods when they eat out. If you would like to support this work, please email publichealth-mailbox@devon.gov.uk

Businesses wanting advice and support on age restricted sales or other trading standards matters can contact Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards on 01392 381381 or email tradingstandards@devon.gov.uk

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