What is an Energy Drink?
Energy drinks are functional beverages that can be enjoyed by a range of people. Energy drinks are formulated for people looking for a product that provides additional mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time.
Even though most energy drinks on average contain less caffeine than a similarly sized cup of coffee, energy drink manufacturers do not recommend energy drinks to be consumed by children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people who are sensitive to caffeine. This information is included on the label of energy drinks in accordance with Health Canada Regulations.
Where can I find out what is in my energy drink?
Energy drink labels contain a great deal of information for consumers, which is required by Health Canada, and enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Consumers can easily learn the following from the label, among other things:
Visit specific energy drink brand websites for more detailed information about their beverages.
How much sugar is in an energy drink?
Energy drinks come in both regular and sugar-free options. While sugar levels may vary, for those that contain sugar, it is at levels that are around the same as an equivalent volume of other sugar-sweetened beverages. Like other mainstream foods and beverages, nutrient and ingredient information (including the amount of sugar) can be found in the Nutrition Facts table, as well as the ingredients list on the back of the label.
Are energy drinks and energy shots the same?
Energy shots are not energy drinks. These other products are not considered caffeinated energy drinks by Health Canada, and are regulated as non-food products. Energy shots are typically of smaller volume and contain, on average, a caffeine concentration in excess of 3,000mg/Litre, i.e. 8 to 10 times higher than what Health Canada permits in caffeinated energy drinks.
Energy Drink Ingredients
What’s in an energy drink?
Energy drinks sold in Canada may contain some of the following ingredients:
Caffeine has been safely consumed, in many forms, for thousands of years. Caffeine is one of the most studied ingredients in the food supply. Regardless of whether caffeine is added to a product (such as in energy drinks) or naturally occurring (such as in coffee or chocolate), and whether it is consumed hot or cold, there is no chemical difference between the two. In fact, the effects are identical. This means that drinking an energy drink would have the same effect on caffeine blood levels, and the same physiological effects, as drinking coffee with comparable levels of caffeine.
In Canada, approximately 90% caffeine consumed in Canada comes from coffee and tea.
Guarana seeds are one of more than 60 plants worldwide that naturally contain caffeine.
Ginseng is a perennial herb. Many cultures have been adding ginseng to tea for hundreds of years.
B vitamins are found naturally in the foods we eat such as seafood, seeds and meat.
Energy drinks contain either caloric or low- and no-calorie sweeteners, giving consumers a range of options from which to choose.
Taurine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the human body, as well as in common food items such as seafood and poultry.
International Health regulators have determined that taurine does not interact negatively with, or enhance the effects of, caffeine with respect to its effects on the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, or hydration status in the body at the levels typically included in energy drinks.
Get the Facts
Energy drinks are functional beverages that can be enjoyed by a range of people. For some, they serve as a morning pick-me-up in place of coffee. For others, they are one more beverage choice that may be enjoyed for variety, caffeine, or simply taste.
Even though most mainstream energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as as a similarly-sized cup of home-brewed coffee and about half that of a similarly-sized coffeehouse coffee, leading energy drink manufacturers do not recommend that energy drinks be consumed by children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people who are sensitive to caffeine. This information is included on the label of energy drinks in accordance with Health Canada regulations.
Get the Facts
Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages. Importantly, under the Canadian Beverage Association (CBA) Guidance for the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks, energy drinks are not promoted to be mixed with alcohol.
The balance of evidence, including recent risk assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK Committee on Toxicity, suggests that combining caffeine and alcohol does not present a safety concern or reduce or alter the perception of alcohol-induced intoxication.
Links to the EFSA study, plus reports from both Health Canada and the United Kingdom Committee on Toxicity that discuss these findings, can be found in the Resources section
Did you know?
Health Canada’s 2013 risk assessment on caffeinated energy drinks and concluded that 500 ml of a typical energy drink per day would not be expected to pose a health risk for the general adult population. Health Canada similarly concluded that, for adolescents 12-18 years old, the caffeine content of 250-500 ml of a typical energy drink (80-160 mg caffeine) would be unlikely to pose an acute health hazard.
Did you know?
A typical 500 ml energy drink contains 160 mg of caffeine, while a typical 250 ml energy drink contains 80 mg of caffeine. Both have a caffeine concentration of 0.32 mg/ml. This is about half the caffeine of a similar-sized cup of coffeehouse coffee, which typically has about 330 mg caffeine per 500 ml.
Did you know?
Energy drink manufacturers are committed to responsibly manufacturing, marketing and labelling their products, and all beverages contain informative labels regarding the caffeine content as well as the Nutrition Facts Table. CBA’s members voluntarily adhere to the Energy Drink Marketing Code, which outlines our commitment to not market to children or sell energy drinks in schools between grades K-12.
Did you know?
The Canadian Beverage Association and its members believe that when it comes to caffeine, it is important that all sources be considered equally. Caffeine is caffeine, regardless of whether it comes from coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks.
Did you know?
Energy drink labels contain a wealth of information for consumers. Leading energy drinks voluntarily disclose the total quantity of caffeine – from all sources –on a per can/bottle basis. For multi-serving containers, the total quantity of caffeine is disclosed on a per serving basis (e.g., “caffeine content: xx mg/355ml ; yy mg/per can”). Leading energy drinks also voluntarily include advisory statements such as “Not (intended/recommended) for children, pregnant or nursing women (and/or persons/those) sensitive to caffeine.”
Did you know?
Cold brew coffee tends to contain higher levels of caffeine than coffee made with warm or hot water, and certainly more caffeine than most mainstream energy drinks. This is due to the extended steeping time during processing which results in higher caffeine concentrations, which can often be multiple times that of a mainstream energy drink.
Did you know?
Taurine – a common ingredient used in energy drinks – is an amino acid that is found naturally in the human body, as well as in common food items such as seafood and poultry.
Health regulators have determined that taurine does not interact negatively with, or enhance the effects of caffeine with respect to its effects on the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system or hydration status in the body at the levels typically included in energy drinks.
Safety of Energy Drinks
Energy drinks have been sold and safely consumed for serveral decades and are available in more than 170 countries, including Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and all Member of States of the European Union.
The safety of mainstream energy drinks has been recognized by the world’s leading health authorities, including — the U.S. FDA, Health Canada, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Food Standards Australia New Sealand (FSANZ).
Health Canada’s energy drink assessment, published in June 2013, concluded:
- For healthy adults, daily caffeine intake from any source of up to 400 mg is not associated with adverse health effects.
- How much caffeine does my beverage have — find out here.
- For teens 13 – 18 years of age, Health Canada has suggested a daily caffeine intake limit of 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration
In recent years, FDA has extensively studied the safety and consumption of energy drinks. This includes commissioning a consumption study of caffeinated beverages and authorizing the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a two-day public workshop on caffeine in food and dietary supplements. The study confirmed that overall caffeine intake has not increased since energy drinks entered the U.S. market, and that energy drinks contribute only a small portion of American consumers’ daily caffeine intake, even for children and adolescents.
European Food Safety Authority
In Europe, EFSA has extensively studied energy drinks for more than 15 years and has repeatedly confirmed the safety of energy drink ingredients. In 2015, EFSA released its Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine, concluding:
- There is no generally accepted scientific and fact-based evidence that taurine and D-glucurono-y-lactone (two ingredients commonly used in energy drinks) interact adversely with, or enhance the effects of, caffeine with respect to its effects on the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, or hydration status in the body at the levels typically included in energy drinks.
- For healthy adults, a single dose of up to 200 mg caffeine from any dietary source is not associated with adverse health effects. Daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg from any dietary source is also not associated with adverse health effects for this population.
- For children (3 – 10 years) and adolescents (10 – 18 years), a single dose of up to 3 mg caffeine (from any dietary source) per kg of body weight is not associated with adverse health effects. This is also EFSA’s daily caffeine recommendation for this population.
Voluntary Commitments in Canada
Canadian Beverage Association (CBA) member companies – which represent the majority of the energy drinks sold in Canada – support a responsible commitment to the manufacturing, marketing and consumption of their products. CBA member companies voluntarily adhere to the CBA Guidance for the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks, which, among other things, outline that energy drinks are not to be marketed to children, including the marketing or sale of energy drinks in schools between grades K-12.
Energy drink labels contain a great deal of information for consumers, some of which is mandated by law and some which is voluntarily provided by leading energy drink companies under the CBA’s guidelines. Consumers can easily learn the following from the label, among other things
- The total amount of caffeine from all sources;
- All ingredients (required by Canadian law);
For more facts and information about energy drinks, check the FAQ and Get the Facts.
Regulation of Energy Drinks in Canada
As energy drinks are regulated by Health Canada as a food, they follow all nutrition labelling provisions plus a few product-specific requirements. Labels must comply with Health Canada and CFIA Regulations and specifically note that energy drinks are not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people who are sensitive to caffeine and must advise maximum daily consumption.
Health Canada has capped the concentration of caffeine allowed in energy drinks at 400 mg per litre. This means that the typical energy drink, 250 – 500 mL would contain between 80 – 180 mg of caffeine. All energy drinks sold in Canada must fall within these parameters.
A typical energy drink will contain between 80 – 180 mg of caffeine.
Less than approximately 400 mg caffeine per litre.
- Energy Drinks: An Assessment of the Potential Health Risks in the Canadian Context, Health Canada
- Food and Nutrition: Caffeine in Food, Health Canada
- Food Additives: Caffeine in Foods, Health Canada
- Caffeine Intake by the U.S. Population, prepared on behalf of FDA
- Systematic Review of the Potential Adverse Effects of Caffeine Consumption in Healthy Adults, Pregnant Women, Adolescents, and Children, ILSI North America
- Caffeine Systemic Review, ILSI North America
European Regulatory Authority Resources
- Committee on Toxicity Statement on the interaction of caffeine and alcohol and their combined effects on health and behaviour, Committee on Toxicity, UK
- The use of taurine and D-glucurono-gamma-lactone as constituents of the so-called “energy” drinks, European Food Safety Authority
- Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies, European Food Safety Authority
If you have more questions about the Energy Drink industry in Canada, please contact us!
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