Dubai: A senior UAE official said authorities will consider whether to ban energy drink sales to people younger than 20.
Sales of the high caffeine drinks are already banned for under-16s and in schools, with officials concerned about their effects on children.
Large doses of energy drinks, which are also high in sugar and contain taurine organic acid, can lead to health problems, doctors say.
On Thursday, Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, director of Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy, confirmed a meeting to consider raising the age limit is set for October 2.
If the ministry’s Higher Committee for Consumer Protection moves in favour of the higher age limit, “the matter will be sent to the Prime Minister for the final decision,” Al Nuaimi told Gulf News.
He denied media reports that a new age limit has been set and will be enforced starting 2015.
“We’re still studying it. After there will be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from us, it has to be finalised by higher authorities. You need to take approval for the change.”
He added that also involved in the process are the Ministry of Health and Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).
Al Nuaimi said any change “will take time, I cannot say how long”.
Juliot Vinolia, a clinical dietician and consultant nutritionist in Dubai, said enforcing an age limit is “one of the best ways” to protect teen health.
“Children are ignorant of the dangers of energy drinks. Children have to remember that they are designed only for adults who are involved in strenuous physical activity that calls for more minerals and vitamins,” she added.
Vinolia said the products are “designed to enhance performance and not for re-hydration. There’s no health benefit.”
She said they “contain many ingredients which require further research to be proven medically safe”.
According to her, although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “limits caffeine content in soft drinks, which are categorised as food, there is no such regulation of energy drinks, which are classified as dietary supplements.”
Vinolia added that children and youth should be especially cautious as they “generally don’t consciously consume enough water and the intake of such drinks can worsen dehydration, leading to complications and even damage to body organs to some extent.”