A voluntary ban on selling energy drinks to children aged under 16 is being routinely flouted by supermarkets, research suggests.
A majority of underage “mystery shoppers” who were sent into outlets of the major supermarkets who had publicly committed to the ban were able to buy the high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks unchallenged.
Tesco, Waitrose, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl are among a group of retailers who promised to demand proof of age from young-looking consumers buying energy drinks earlier this year.
The commitment came ahead of Theresa May’s announcement in August that the Government would consult on introducing a mandatory legal ban.
However, the independent test purchasing service Serve Legal says that of 550 test purchases conducted in UK supermarkets, 54 per cent were sold energy drinks without being asked their age.
Energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster Energy, contain high levels of caffeine, sugar and/or sweeteners and other stimulants.
They carry warnings about high caffeine content and are not recommended for children.
Ed Heaver, director at Serve Legal, said he expected supermarket staff to become more rigorous as awareness of the voluntary ban improves.
“Age verification and testing should be an integral part of responsible retail culture and staff training,” he said.
“Communication with customers around the ban is also important and some retailers have introduced prominent signage highlighting the new age restriction.
“The current voluntary ban is not a level playing field, however. “Independent retailers, convenience stores and service stations are yet to adopt the same approach.”