city of toronto energy drink ban-min

As you may know by now, the City of Toronto has ruled against implementing any age-restrictions on energy drinks. Prior to their decision, they had contemplated limiting the sale of the beverages out of concerns for youth consumption, consumption with alcohol and the general caffeine level. We believe, as Health Canada believes, that it’s imperative that we educate consumers about the hazards associated with any caffeinated product but advocate that imposing restrictions is not feasible for local authorities.

Below is a summary of the speech that OCSA CEO Dave Bryans made to the Toronto Board of Health in late March.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our Association’s perspective on the proposed recommendations concerning caffeinated energy drinks or CEDs.

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association represents the economic interests of over 6,500 family-run stores in Ontario with over 2,300 located in the City of Toronto. Our membership is made up of corporate chains, regional chains and independents including the OKBA. We see in Toronto over 725,000 customers daily living in the boundaries of the city and we employ over 18,000 people in the city. We take great pride in being ‘responsible community retailers’ working with all levels of governments and are an integral part of every neighbourhood in Toronto.

As you know, these products are regulated by Health Canada, where they are assessed and approved before any retailer can sell them in their stores.

We also fully support Health Canada’s position on CEDs that: “CED labels state that they are not recommended for children, that they should not be mixed with alcohol, that they shall not be marketed to children (12 years and under) or that they are not represented for the purpose of hydration and/or electrolyte replacement before, during or after physical activity.”

Our members do not market these products to children.

We also endorse Toronto Public Health’s decision to raise awareness about the risks of mixing energy drinks with alcohol and would be pleased to work with the City of Toronto to see how the convenience sector could help with public education.

However, the issue of restricting sales in the absence of federal or provincial legislation or regulation is a very challenging undertaking.  I noted that even the City’s staff report stated that imposing age restrictions on CEDs is currently not feasible for local authorities.

We believe such attempts at local regulation of CES would be further complicated by the fact that Health Canada’s classification of CEDs as drinks containing 200 to 400 milligrams of caffeine per litre overlaps with products from businesses, like Tim Hortons and Starbucks, which sell caffeinated beverages where the amount of caffeine per litre can even exceed the classification for CEDs.

Health Canada itself noted “a 250 mL can of an Energy Drink product would not exceed 100 mg of caffeine per container. This level is less than the amount of caffeine contained in a small cup of moderately strong coffee.”

Given the complex nature of regulation, and to avoid a patchwork of differing local regulations, we believe this discussion is most appropriate for provincial or federal regulators.

But let me close by saying that if a future federal or provincial government were to mandate any such age for caffeinated beverages, our members would be fully compliant. OCSA members have an excellent track record of performing age checks. The Government of Ontario’s own data show that in over 20,000 age-check compliance tests each year, OCSA stores have achieved a 95% success rate in denying the sale of age-restricted products to youth.

We continue to be committed to complying with and enforcing government’s age-restrictions when it comes to tobacco, lottery, and alcohol sales, and continue to look for ways to improve upon our already strong track record.

Thank you for your time.