German health authorities have issued a 14-page statement warning against over-consumption of energy shots – one of the fastest growing segments of the international beverages market.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) said while there were no inherent health issues if manufacturer recommendations of one energy shot drink per day were followed, consumers could not be trusted to follow this advice, and so deemed the drinks unsafe.
“In the case of ‘energy shot’ products, such consumer behaviour (considerably excessive intake) cannot be avoided by manufacturer’s advice for intended use,” the BfR said. “BfR thus recommends that ‘energy shots’ are prohibited from being placed on the market.”
In drawing its conclusion, the agency highlighted the fact the drinks that can contain between 50-200mg of caffeine and 200-1000mg taurine per 25-75ml serving, were often consumed by young people in nightclubs – environments where suggested intakes were likely to be ignored.
Therefore overconsumption of caffeine and taurine was likely to occur more intensely with energy shots than with regular energy drinks that carry no such daily dosage warnings. Other ingredients included guarana, green tea, inositol and glucuronolactone.
The call for prohibition comes despite label warnings against overconsumption and additional advisories that children, pregnant women and caffeine-sensitive individuals should not consume the products.
Other statements warned breast-feeding mothers, diabetics and those with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease not to consume the products.
The energy shot market is little more than five years old after a start-up pioneered the area with a product called 5-hour energy shot. That product has quickly notched sales of more than $200m and the market approaching $1bn in the US.
The European market is younger and smaller but global energy drink leader, Red Bull, entered the space in 2009 with a UK debut. It has also launched in the US.
Red Bull was unavailable for comment by the time of publication.
State of arousal
The BfR backed its call for a ban by noting the manner in which energy shots are often consumed.
“The Institute assumes that energy shots are sometimes consumed in place of energy drinks and thus consumed – like these – at the discretion of the consumer without quantitative limit,” it said.
“It should also be noted that consumers in night clubs may choose to increase their energy shot intake in an attempt to counteract fatigue or to reach a state of arousal. Since physical exertion also increases thirst, there is a risk that the suggested intake levels of energy shots are not adhered to”.
The addition of alcohol, which is common the BfR said, was another factor that could, “amplify the adverse effects of caffeine”.
While the BfR accepted that caffeine was commonly used in “stimulant beverages” such as coffee, tea and cola, it took issue with its use in “foods consumed in the form of concentrates”.
“This form of caffeine intake does not allow consumers to anticipate their potency based on taste as traditional stimulant beverages do,” BfR said.
BfR noted adverse effects of caffeine over-consumption included nervousness, irritability, insomnia, nausea, headache, tremor, increased anxiety, perceptual disturbances, diuresis, arrhythmia, tachy-cardia, increased respiration rate and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Much of the report summarized studies that highlighted these adverse effects of over-consumption of caffeine.