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Govt plans to tighten norms on stimulants in energy drinks

Govt plans to tighten norms on stimulants in energy drinks
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First Published: Mon, Sep 20 2010. 07 56 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Sep 20 2010. 07 56 AM IST
Mumbai: Makers of energy drinks could find their growing wings clipped as Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plans to tighten the law to include stricter measures that will lead to prosecution against and heavy penalties for manufacturers who sell products that contain excess levels of stimulants.
A draft law, which may be included in the Food Safety Act—an amended version of which is likely to be introduced by December—has recommended that the manufacturers of such drinks be prosecuted by state-level food and drug administration officials, and fined between Rs2 lakh and Rs10 lakh if their products violate the new standards, said a senior senior official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maharashtra, who is privy to the central move.
Mint has reviewed a copy of the draft law.
Energy drinks are essentially non-alcoholic beverages that contain stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, glucuronolactone, taurine, ginseng, inositol, carnitine and B-vitamins as the main ingredients. These drinks have been introduced in the market mostly as energy boosters or dietary supplements. The draft law will also establish standards for the quantities of stimulants in such drinks.
The Rs500 crore domestic energy drinks market currently has at least a dozen leading products, with the business likely to double in the next two years, according to the Confederation of Indian Food Trade and Industry (Cifti), a food and beverages industry lobby.
While popular brands such as Red Bull, Rhino’s Bullet and Cloud 9 dominate the market, another six or seven new local and imported products, including Romanov Red from India’s biggest drinks company United Spirits Ltd, and Burn of US multinational Coca-Cola and Co., have recently entered the space.
These drinks are marketed to young adults, according to a paper prepared by FSSAI.
“Many of these drinks are heavily promoted in bars or for use in combination with alcohol, which could further increase the health risk to consumers. There are a number of scientific reports on the adverse consequences of excessive consumption of caffeine,” the FSSAI paper stated.
According to the FSSAI document, caffeine is added to energy drinks, ostensibly to increase mental performance. Moreover, caffeine used in conjunction with alcoholic or other substances of dependence can have additional impact on health.
FSSAI has invited public suggestions on its recommendations for the new standards and the penal provisions.
The draft says that warnings and limits are necessary because there is a wide disparity in caffeine content in the various brands of energy drinks. According to the report, caffeine content can vary between 75mg and 500mg per can. Caffeine intoxication can result in symptoms such as rapid heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, restlessness, tremors and, in rare cases, death.
“If introduced, we will have to initiate action as we are aware that several of these products currently sold in the market in the category of energy drinks contain excess level of stimulants such as caffeine. We don’t have any law in place to regulate them at present,” said C.B. Pawar, joint commissioner at FDA, Maharashtra.
However, the standards of carbonated water under the current Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act specify a maximum of 200 ppm (parts per mg) of caffeine, which was reduced to 145 ppm following recommendations by a government committee on food standards a few years ago.
“Romanov Red Energy drink contains 14.5mg/100ml or 145 ppm of caffeine, which is well within the prescribed safety limits by the PFA Act,” said Debashish Shyam, spokesperson and deputy vice-president (marketing) and business head of United Spirits, adding the proposed change would not impact their product.
Executives at other energy drinks’ makers declined to comment, instead referring Mint to Cifti.
“A proposal to regulate the contents level in products such as energy drinks without scientific data on average intake of that content by the consumer in this country is irrelevant,” said Sameer Barde, assistant secretary general of Cifti.
“India doesn’t have such data on caffeine intake at present, and blindly following the standards of high caffeine consuming countries such as the US may not be appropriate here,” he added.
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First Published: Mon, Sep 20 2010. 07 56 AM IST