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Canada compromises on new energy drink regulation

Canada compromises on new energy drink regulation
After deliberating over the advice of an expert panel to reclassify energy beverages as drugs, the Canadian Health Minister has found what she has deemed a "balanced" response that helps Canadians make informed decisions, while preserving their freedom to consume what they want.

Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has decided not to follow the advice of her panel of experts who recommended that energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster Energy, be redesignated as drugs and sold exclusively under the supervision of a pharmacist. (Read the backstory here.)

Instead she has decided to reclassify energy drinks as food products—as they are classified in the U.S. and Europe—and to make them subject to the same nutrition and safety labeling regulations as all packaged food products. Up until now, energy drinks have been regulated as Natural Health Product (NHP) in Canada and as such are not required to state nutrition information, or even caffeine content, on the label.

"I firmly believe that it's up to individuals and parents to make their own decisions when it comes to what they eat and drink," said Aglukkaq. "Today’s announcement will ensure that parents have the information to make the best choice for themselves and their families."

How to comply with the new requirements

Under the new measures, Heath Canada will also require manufacturers to:

  • Limit the amount of caffeine in an energy drink to 180 mg in a single serving (equivalent to approximately what can be found in a medium coffee)
  • Identify on the label groups for whom high levels of caffeine are not recommended (children, pregnant/breastfeeding women), labels would indicate the levels of caffeine in the product;
  • Include ingredient, nutrition and allergen declaration, as with all other foods;
  • Ensure that types and levels of vitamins and minerals are within safe levels
  • Provide a warning statement on the label advising not to mix with alcohol

Health Canada says it intends to initiate the new food requirements as of Nov. 1, 2011. “Industry will be given time to adjust to these requirements (e.g. change their labeling practices to meet the nutrition and allergen labeling requirements),” according to Health Canada.

The transition is expected to take 18 to 24 months once products are deemed eligible to be sold as foods—and have met all the above requirements—under a Temporary Marketing Authorization (TMA) issued by Health Canada and valid for five years.

The change will not, however, apply to energy shots such as the wildly popular 5-Hour Energy or Worx Energy Shot, both of which can contain close to 200 mg of caffeine. Energy shots will continue to be regulated under the NHP regulations “since their current format allows them to be easily distinguished from foods and are clearly in a dosage form,” explains the Health Canada release.

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