Renewed calls for energy drink laws amid U.S. health probe

A scare in the U.S. over health problems associated with the brand of 5-Hour Energy drinks has renewed calls for more regulation of all energy drinks in Canada.

Since 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has catalogued dozens of incidents possibly linked to 5-Hour Energy and other energy drinks, including death from cardiac arrest.

Health Canada has already imposed new standards on energy drinks and reporting the caffeine content will be mandatory later this year.

But some public health agencies in Canada don't think that goes far enough.

In Quebec and Ontario, health associations are calling on the federal government to impose new regulations on the drinks, including regulating the caffeine content, making the drinks unavailable to people under 18 years old, imposing rules on the marketing of the drinks, and making it mandatory to advertise possible side effects.

"We've been quite concerned about overuse or abuse of these seemingly natural products that are not as regulated as we want them to be. We want some regulation," said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, CEO and medical officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

"What caffeine does, especially high doses of caffeine … it actually makes your heart race, increases your blood pressure," he said. Give that to someone with chronic heart problems or a predisposition to them, and that could cause health problems, he said.

Kate Jory, a local university student, said she's not sure restricting the drinks to people under 18 would help.

"I think that would increase kids wanting to try it," Jory said, "but I think they could make [people] more aware that it's really not good for your body."

"It's everywhere. Even in this little store on campus, there's like a whole wall of them and … there's no warning. I feel like there should be a warning," said Jory's roommate, Kaili Walsh.

"People talk about things being natural and assume that it's safe. But this is not the case in this situation. This is an example of that," Dr. Roumeliotis said.

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