Jamie Oliver has called on the Government to consider BANNING sales of energy drinks to kids.

Children will routinely opt for a can of Red Bull or Monster at the local convenience store.

But the TV chef reckons energy drinks manufacturers are targeting kids with their products.

In a new interview with the Mirror , Oliver has highlighted the problems the caffeinated beverages are causing in classrooms across the country.

Many brands contain 160mg of caffeine per 500ml.

A 10-year-old should not consume more than 99mg per day.

“It’s horrific. And it’s just wrong. But it is happening in hundreds of schools in Britain every day,” says the Naked Chef.

Jamie Oliver talks about banning sports type drinks for children
Jamie Oliver talks about banning sports type drinks for children

“We have to do this,” says Jamie. “Because these drinks are turning our kids into addicts. Their use is, to my mind, akin to drugs.

“You’ve got kids doing the secret buying and paying for them, then there’s how they hide it when they get a low, how they take it again at lunch to get up again, drinking it before bed so they have broken sleep.

“Then they’re like a bag of s**t in the morning, and they have another one then to get them up again.”

Jamie's Italian
Celebrity chef unlikely to be included at Jamie's Italian

Jamie’s concern about energy drinks is only partially shaped by his concerns for youngsters’ health.

He’s equally worried about how they might be affecting ­educational attainment – which was what led him to meet the teachers struggling to cope.

“Yeah, energy drinks are full of sugar and we know the damage that does. And yes there is all the caffeine so we know scientifically and morally these shouldn’t be being sold.

“But if you’re still in any doubt about a ban you just have to look at a ­generation of underpaid, underloved teachers who’re sitting there with a plan A, B and C for a lesson – and if two or three kids turn up having had an energy drink, then it’s straight to plan B – to know this is wrong.

“So all those kids in that class are missing out. For them it’s a bit like passive smoking – they’re paying the price for others’ addictions.

“You take that in every school in every district, it’s not just an educational problem, it’s an economic one.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating. If it has an impact on exam grades, it has an impact on people’s ability to get work and all those knock-on effects.”

Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver

Read Jamie's full interview with the Mirror here.

What's the problem with energy drinks?

Energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster, contain high levels of caffeine, which is a stimulant.

They have become increasingly popular over the last 20 years, especially with young people.

Indeed, many clubbers routinely mix them with alcohol, making famed drinks like the Jager Bomb.

Many pubs and clubs will sell jugs or “goldfish bowls” of Red Bull and vodka.

Although there is no standard definition of an “energy drink”, it is taken to mean a non-alcoholic drink that contains caffeine, taurine (an amino acid) and vitamins, in addition to other ingredients.

How widespread are they?

Energy drinks are marketed for their perceived or actual benefits as a stimulant, for improving performance and increasing energy.

Red Bull says it "gives you wings."

In the EU, it is estimated that 30% of adults and 68% of adolescents consume energy drinks, with global sales estimated to be around $12 billion in 2012.

So, what are the risks?

The NHS says potential risks associated with energy drink consumption include:

  • caffeine overdose (which can lead to a number of symptoms, including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, even death)
  • type 2 diabetes – as high consumption of caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity
  • late miscarriages, low birthweight and stillbirths in pregnant women
  • neurological and cardiovascular system effects in children and adolescents
  • sensation-seeking behaviour
  • use and dependence on other harmful substances
  • poor dental health
  • somewhat ironically, given their association with sportiness, obesity

What do local experts say?

The NASUWT teaching union, based in Rednal, worked with drug and alcohol charity Swanswell to examine the consumption of drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Relentless.

Teachers have reported increasing concerns about the effect on behaviour, concentration and energy levels as a result of the drinks, which contain high levels of caffeine and sugar.

Some 13 per cent of teachers who responded to a survey by the NASUWT cited caffeine and energy drinks as a cause of poor pupil behaviour.

Chris Keates, the union’s general secretary, said: “This is the first time we have seen a significant number of teachers beginning to raise this as a concern.

“These drinks are becoming increasingly popular among young people and are often seen as simply like any other soft drink, but many young people and their parents are not aware of the very high levels of stimulants that these drinks contain.

“They are readily available legal highs.

“Teachers are growing increasingly concerned that some young people are using these drinks to enable them to stay up into the early hours of the morning and then replace their lost energy by drinking two or three cans of these drinks on their way to school.

“Teachers are reporting that this affects concentration in class and hyperactivity is then followed by the inevitable crash later in the school day when the impact of these drinks wears off.

“Parents and young people need to be made aware of what these drinks contain and their potential impact on behaviour.”

Small Heath School has banned a variety of energy drinks, including Red Bull
Small Heath School has banned a variety of energy drinks, including Red Bull

According to Swanswell it is “logical” that children should consume a maximum of 200mg of caffeine per day, which is the same limit recommended by the Food Standards Agency for pregnant women.

Figures released by the charity show that 500ml cans and bottles of popular energy drinks contain 144-160mg of caffeine. This means that children can only drink one energy drink to reach the daily caffeine intake limit, compared with five 500ml bottles of cola which contain 39.6mg of caffeine.

Debbie Bannigan, chief executive of Swanswell, said: “As a provider of drug and alcohol services for young people we’re concerned about excessive energy drink consumption, not least because we’re finding links to use of other substances, including alcohol, cannabis and Mephedrone.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), said: “BSDA supports the School Food Trust’s rules on what drinks can be sold in schools but of course it is for teachers to decide what pupils are allowed to take into school.

“It’s worth remembering that coffees from popular high street chains contain the same or more caffeine than most energy drinks. However, like all food and drink, energy drinks should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

“Since 2010 the British Soft Drinks Association has operated a code of practice which says that high caffeine content soft drinks are not recommended for children, and specifies that this information should be clearly stated on the label of such drinks.

“The BSDA code of practice also states that high caffeine content drinks should not be promoted or marketed to those under 16.”

Small Heath School banned energy drinks in 2014.

The move was praised by health bosses a the council.