Latest news on marketing of beverages to kids

There are two interesting developments regarding potentially deceptive beverage marketing practices.

A federal judge has decided that a lawsuit over the health claims made about Vitaminwater could go forward. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is suing Coca-Cola for what they say are deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims on Vitaminwater labels. Here’s the Wall Street Journal story.

In the opinion, the judge points out that the product’s marketing could violate FDA restrictions on food makers from adding nutrients to an otherwise unhealthful food just to make a health claim.

Vitaminwater, by the way, has a lot of sugar. And kids do buy it and drink it.

Energy Drinks
The Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for more regulation and industry action to protect children from the potential health threat posed by energy drinks. They say the highly-caffeinated beverages are marketed to children through sponsorship of skateboarding and snowboarding events.

“Caffeine-loaded energy drinks have now crossed the line from beverages to drugs delivered as tasty syrups,” the authors say, and children and adolescents are notorious for making poor health choices.

However, says the European Commission recently rejected a German motion to require energy drinks to carry warning labels because of concerns about excessive consumption of caffeine and taurine, saying the EC found no evidence of a specific risk associated with those substances that would require additional labeling.

And those Europeans are a lot less regulation-averse than we are, so… maybe it’s not a big problem. But it certainly would be a good idea to tell the kids that those drinks are probably not good for them.

Now, many people will say, when regulation of marketing to children comes up, that, “It’s the parents that buy the stuff for the kids,” and therefore marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to kids is not a problem. I suspect those are people who have very small children who are still under their parents’ wing. (Or else they keep them locked in their rooms?)

My kids certainly do make purchasing decisions with their allowance. I tell them they shouldn’t buy sports drinks or soda, but they still do. I tell them they definitely shouldn’t buy those energy drinks, not just for the caffeine, but for the other unidentifiable ingredients, and so far, they don’t. I’m kind of a “Free-Range” parent, so my kids go out into the world and make decisions for themselves, which I hope are guided by my words over the years. My older son started drinking coffee at one point, but then decided not to anymore, because he didn’t want the caffeine to stunt his growth. So there’s one talking point for boys anyway – they usually want to grow as tall as possible.

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