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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will restrict the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Energy but has pulled back from classifying them as stimulative drug products that can only be sold in pharmacies.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced on Thursday the government's limits on the amount of caffeine allowed in the drinks and said the government would require labels stating the caffeine levels.
"I believe it's up to individuals and parents to make their own decisions when it comes to what they eat and drink," Aglukkaq said in a statement.
An expert panel appointed by Health Canada, the government's health department, had recommended that energy drinks be labeled as "stimulant-drug containing drinks." It said they should be listed on a schedule of drugs that can only be sold in pharmacies.
Energy drinks had been classified as "natural health products" but the government has now reclassified them as foods, with full labeling requirements.
Caffeine will be limited to 180 milligrams in a single serving, a level that Health Canada said is comparable to the amount in a medium cup of coffee.
The limit is high enough that it will not make a difference for many energy drinks. A 250 ml (8.4 oz) can of Red Bull Energy Drink, for example, has 80 mg of caffeine. That's less than a typical cup of coffee but about twice as much as a normal cola.
The panel said that the interaction that caffeine may have with other ingredients in energy drinks - ingredients not found in run-of-the-mill coffee - is not yet well understood.
Seven million energy drinks are sold in Canada every month, according to government estimates.
The fast-growing energy drink market is dominated by Red Bull, Rockstar and Hansen Natural's Monster Energy and certain other brands. Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc and other soft drink companies have their own energy drinks.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway