September 22/Ottawa, Ontario, and Toronto/ABC News Radio and CNW -- An expert panel for Health Canada has targeted energy drinks in a report saying that drinks such as Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster should actually be renamed “stimulant drug containing drinks” and should only be sold under the direct supervision of a pharmacist.

According to Postmedia News, the panel’s report makes the argument that these energy drinks should be under stricter control, especially when taking into consideration the ease with which young people can purchase the caffeinated beverages.

The panel aims to make give a clear signal to the general public that these drinks are in fact “drug products” and not “foods.”

The panel’s recommendations were presented to the government almost a year ago but have been running into opposition from the beverage industry. If these recommendations were be enacted, this would set an international precedent for energy drink regulation, something that the health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, would be expected to defend on the world stage.

The panel proposes that energy drinks be classified under the National Association of Pharmay Regulatory Authorities as a “Schedule III.” This label is attributed to drugs without prescription, but that are sold on pharmacy shelves and purchased under “direct supervision of the pharmacist.” The panel urges that energy drinks be distributed as drugs are, but in a beverage format.

In addition to the change in distribution protocol and naming specifics, the panel also suggests that the drinks carry labels stating that serious adverse effects, including death, can occur.

The Canadian Beverage Association issued a response noting “it is supportive of science-based regulations for energy drinks and all food and beverage products.  However, energy drink regulations must be developed using detailed scientific analysis, risk assessments and they must be supported through a robust pharmacovigilance analysis.  In the absence of these mandatories, the interests of Canadian consumers are not being met. 

“We assert that the conclusions reached in the Expert Panel Report are based on flawed assessments and assumptions of the data put before the Panel. As a result, the recommendations run counter to how these products are regulated in 160 countries world-wide, including the EU, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. 

“The Panel's recommendations are completely unsubstantiated in science and their conclusions are unreasonable. At the request of industry, independent experts conducted a detailed pharmacovigilance analysis of the data provided to the Panel by Health Canada.  This analysis included a review and assessment of all reported adverse events, which the CBA obtained from Health Canada under Access to Information.  Based on their independent analysis, these third party experts concluded that the linking of the alleged adverse reactions to the use of energy drinks were unfounded based on the data before Health Canada.  Their analysis does not show any supportive facts for the Panel's position and fully supports the multitude of international assessments that energy drinks and their ingredients are safe. 

“Based on the Panel's definition of drinks containing stimulants, all forms of coffee and tea would fall into the same definition. Given that over 90% of the caffeine in Canadians' diets comes from coffee and tea, it is therefore perplexing that these beverages would not be subject to the same demanding requirements as energy drinks. 

“In a mL by mL comparison, energy drinks contain on average half the caffeine found in a regular cup of filtered drip coffee. A small 237mL (8oz) filter-drip coffee contains approximately 179mgs of caffeine while a similar sized energy drink contains, on average, 80mg. 

“Energy drinks have been regulated, sold and consumed as food products in more than 160 countries around the world for years.  Health authorities and numerous scientific expert panels in various jurisdictions, including the EU, Australia and New Zealand, have assessed energy drinks and their ingredients and have concluded that they are safe.”