Dutch Minister doesn’t follow advise on labeling alcoholic energy drinks
Utrecht, October 8th 2009

Alcoholic energy drinks: the risks
Alcoholic energy drinks are very popular among young people in the Netherlands as well
as in the rest of Europe, and pre-mixed drinks are widely available. An alcoholic energy
drink contains, besides alcohol, caffeine, taurine, ginseng, glucuronolactone, B-vitamins,
guarana or herbals with a similar stimulating effect. Producers claim these products
increase physical endurance, concentration, awareness and reaction rate (Simon &
Mosher, 2007). Research from the US revealed that adolescents who drink alcoholic
energy drinks, drink more often risky quantities (binge-drinking). Because alcohol is
sedative and energy drinks are stimulating, the effects of alcohol are masked which may
lead to excessive alcohol consumption (O‟Brien, et al, 2008). Also other problematic
(alcohol-related) consequences occur more often; use of marihuana, taking sexual risks,
fighting, riding with an intoxicated driver, being physically hurt or injured, and the need
for medical help (O‟Brien, et al, 2008; Ferreira, et al, 2006).
Background for risk inventory
On the 31th of July 2008, STAP, the Dutch institute for alcohol policy, made a call on the
supermarkets to ban alcoholic energy drinks from their stock, because of the increased
alcohol-related harm risks. As a reaction on this call, questions were raised to minister
Klink ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, about the risk of alcoholic energy drinks on
the 4th of august 2008. The minister ordered an independent risk inventory of alcoholic
energy drinks, executed by the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (VWA). The
aim of this literature study was to assess where ether the combination of alcohol use and
energy drinks, increases the harmful risks of drinking alcohol1.
Report on risk inventory of alcoholic energy drinks
The report of the risk inventory was released on the 6th of May 2009 and concluded that:
Drinking an alcoholic energy drink can be assumed to have the same effect as drinking alcohol and energy drink (or caffeine) in the same quantity as a pre-mix; - There are indications that drinking energy drinks leads to more problem behavior and mixing energy drinks with alcohol leads increased alcohol consumption and more alcohol-related harm; - The consumption of energy drinks or caffeinated drinks together with alcohol leads to underestimation of the effects of alcohol, but not to decreased alcohol concentrations in blood or breath. Along with moderate alcohol consumption energy drinks can compensate the effects of alcohol on the ability to react; - It is assumed that one can of 250 ml energy drink doesn‟t cause any additional effects when taken together with a limited amount of alcohol.
Recommendations by the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority
The three recommendations of the report followed by this inventory are:
Asses the safety of (alcoholic) energy drinks and seek for an EU approach. The additional use of a number of ingredients to this drinks is unclear and the effects of consumption of more than one portion (can or bottle) on one‟s health are merely unknown; - An inventory should be made, of the sincere harmful effects of drinking alcohol in Enact detailed regulations for labeling alcoholic energy drinks as well as energy drinks. One can think of clear warning labels on the product, like: „not suitable for children, heart patients, persons sensitive for caffeine‟ and state that taking in more than
one drink or in combination with alcohol, risks for undesirable side-effects increase.
The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority recommends that until this all is
realized, one can ask producers to cooperate voluntary.
Reaction of the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport on the report
Unfortunately, the minister doesn‟t attend to take action on this matter. In a letter, he
states: “There is no indication that drinking alcoholic energy drinks is an extensive
problem, at this moment. The results of this risk inventory and of the research on the
effects of labeling alcoholic drinks give no motive to me to introduce warning labels on
alcoholic energy drinks or to take other actions.”
EUCAM remarks:
In agreement with the conclusions and recommendations of the risk inventory of the Food
and Consumer Product Safety Authority, EUCAM underlines the importance of further
research on the harmful effects of alcoholic energy drinks. Furthermore, clear and effective
labeling of alcoholic energy products can be seen as a minimal necessary intervention to
inform consumers on the potential risks of the product, but restrictions of the availability
of alcoholic energy drinks need to be considered.
Ferreira, S.E., de Mello, M. T., Pompéia, S. & Souza-Formigoni, M.L. (2006). Effects of
energy drink ingestion on alcohol intoxication. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental O‟Brien, M.C., McCoy, T.P., Rhodes, S.D., Wagoner, A. & Wolfson, M. (2008). Caffeinated cocktails: energy drink consumption, high-risk drinking and alcohol- related consequences among college students. Academic Emergency Medicine, 15, Simon, M. & Mosher, J. (2007). Alcohol, energy drinks, and youth: a dangerous mixture. Marin Institute: California.
More information on alcoholic energy drinks?
EUCAM report
: Drinks with a boost: Alcoholic Energy Drinks2
EUCAM news: The raise of alcoholic energy drinks in Europe3
Contact information:
European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing
P.O Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043
E-mail: [email protected]



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