Trade group considers action against ‘discriminatory’ energy drink bans
A ban on the sales is set to come into place in Latvia in June this year.
The law follows a similar move by its neighbouring country Lithuania, which announced mandatory age restrictions back in 2014.
Andreas Kadi, president of the trade group, told us: “EDE believes that the new provisions planning to ban the sales of energy drinks to people under 18 years old in Latvia are not scientifically substantiated, are disproportionate and discriminatory, and hence might be considered contrary to EU law.”
He said the Latvian proposal had ignored the findings of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) 2015 opinion on caffeine.
The risk assessment said up to 400 mg of caffeine a day and 200 mg in a single dose were safe for a general adult population.
Kadi – who worked previously for energy drink giants Coca-Cola and Red Bull in scientific and regulatory roles – added that on average energy drinks contributed only 3% to Latvian adolescents’ total caffeine intake, a fact neglected by the Latvian government.
Asked if the EDE would challenge the Lithuanian or Latvian ban on its compliance with EU law, Kadi said: “We will consider all appropriate steps to demonstrate that these laws are not scientifically substantiated, disproportionate and discriminatory.”
Kadi said any decision would be guided by its members.
EDE members include Austrian giant Red Bull, Belgian brand Atomic, Austria-based Power Horse, French Truc de Fou and Dutch Bullit.
The Latvian Advertising Association (Biedrība Latvijas Reklāmas asociācija) also criticised the initiative, claiming such restrictions were contrary to EU’s fundamental principles of free trade and would jeopardise Latvian competiveness in that only Latvian-registered advertisers would be covered.
The association sent a letter to its government urging it to reconsider.
Game over for sport sponsorship?
As well as the new age-restrictions for retailers and a complete ban on the sale of energy drinks in schools and colleges, Latvia will impose restrictions on advertising.
Under the new rules, adverts must carry obligatory health warnings on the dangers of excessive consumption and there will also be a ban on sponsorship of sporting events or association with alcohol.
EDE declined to comment on whether this would impact Red Bull's extensive sponsorship of extreme sporting events, which form an integral part of its branding.