High levels of caffeine in energy drinks can cause heart palpitations in young people. Image Credit: VIRENDRA SAKLANI/Gulf News

Dubai: If you’re under 16, pregnant or have a heart condition, it will be illegal to buy energy drinks with high caffeine levels.

Effective August 1 selling energy drinks that contain more than 32 milligrams of caffeine per 100 millilitres will be illegal across the UAE — less than the amount of caffeine found in a regular cup of coffee.

A small shot of expresso coffee contains 77mg of caffeine, while a tin of Red Bull contains 32mg, right on the threshold level for sale without restriction.

The new regulations means grocery stores and supermarkets — or anyone selling energy drinks — will have to post mandatory warning notices.

And energy drinks will have to stored separately away from other drinks.

The new rules are being introduced by Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma).

“We are working on a priority basis and for a long time now regulating the energy drink has been on top of our priorities,” explained Mohammad Saleh Badri, Director General of Esma.

No unified standards

“Energy drinks have high risk elements for people who drink them and currently there are no unified standards on the level of its ingredients like caffeine and taurine. We have already informed the distributors and producers and from August 1 that the products coming to the market will have to comply with the new standards.”

He added that supermarkets and groceries will have to ensure that they don’t sell energy drinks to children under 16, pregnant women, sportspersons and heart patients as the drinks are not recommended for these people. If caught selling the retailers would incur huge fines.

Companies marketing the drinks will have to send samples to Esma for analysis.

“If the products comply with [our] standards, a certificate of conformity will be issued by the authority, allowing the company to distribute its product,” Badra told Gulf News.

“We will do random checks on the products regularly and if the drinks fail the tests, companies will be penalised heavily.” He said.

Those penalties range from a minimum fine Dh10,000 up to Dh35,000.

The new regulations even allow for a prison sentence, depending on the severity of the breach of the tough new rules.

Badri said that for companies to import the products, importers will have to apply for a conformity certificate.

And when the energy drink consignments arrive, the ports customs department will make sure the products comply with the standards.

Ensure conformity

At the local level, respective civic bodies will work with Esma officials to enforce the new regulations and ensure conformity.

According to the new rules, every 100ml drink should not contain more than 32mg of caffeine.

But the new rules don’t just cover caffeine.

Inositol should not be more than 20mg per 100ml; taurine should not exceed 400mg, and glucuronolactone levels should not be more than 240mg.

“We are focusing on restricting the four elements of energy drinks, which producers are looking to increase and are harmful for health,” Badri warned.

“The strange thing about energy drinks is that they can neither be classified as food or medicine and hence it is very dangerous to leave unattended,” he said.

The new standards require the producers to ensure that the drinks are fit for health and pose no risks.

As well as signs in shops and at retail outlets, the drinks containers themselves will be required to have a warning label.

“Clear warning messages should be displayed on every can,” Badri said.

He added that groceries and supermarkets are required to store energy drinks in separate refrigerators, away from other drinks, while clearly displaying warning messages on refrigerators.

The distributors have until the end of this year to clear their previously packaged products, provided that the ingredients comply with the new standards, if not they will have to withdraw the drinks from the market before August 1 and restock with new ones that meet the rules.