Labour leader Keir Starmer sets out plan to ban sale of energy drinks to children aged under 16

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he does not “care what people call it” as he faced questions about whether his plan to ban energy drink sales to children could be described as “nanny-state” interference.

His party has unveiled plans to ban the sale of high-caffeine drinks to children aged under 16.

TV chef Jamie Oliver has backed the plans, which he described as “really exciting”, in a video posted to the social media website X, formerly Twitter.

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On the campaign trail at Whale Hill Primary School in Middlesbrough, Sir Keir told journalists: “The state of the nation can be measured in many respects by the health of our children. It’s in a terrible place.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, as they announce plans to ‘tackle the crisis in children's dentistry’ and clear the backlog with 100,000 extra appointments for kids, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireLabour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, as they announce plans to ‘tackle the crisis in children's dentistry’ and clear the backlog with 100,000 extra appointments for kids, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, as they announce plans to ‘tackle the crisis in children's dentistry’ and clear the backlog with 100,000 extra appointments for kids, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

He added: “I mean Monster, I think, is the number one.

“Just to give you a sense of that, the caffeine in that is the equivalent of several espressos, which is why it’s having such an effect on children’s behaviour. Talk to anyone who’s in a school and they’ll tell you what the problem is.

“But also it’s got a very detrimental effect on their teeth.”

Sir Keir said he was “genuinely shocked and angered to learn that more children go into hospital to have their teeth taken out between the ages of six to 10 than any other operation”.

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He also said: “I’m not prepared to simply stand by and let that happen, which is why we’ve championed supervised teeth cleaning. We’ve been watching that this morning.

“I don’t really care what people call it. If the price for a child of not taking action is losing your teeth between the ages of six to 10, that’s a price that’s too high.”

According to the Labour Party, soft drinks such as Coca-Cola fall below the 150mg of caffeine per litre threshold, but a 500ml can of Monster Energy would exceed it.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has previously said: “Tories have stood idly by as children go to school wired on the equivalent of three shots of espresso from these toxic drinks. It stops them sleeping, damages their mental health, how on earth do we expect children to learn with that in their system?”

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Oliver, who fronted a campaign to scratch Turkey Twizzlers and some other school dinner options from canteen menus during Tony Blair’s premiership, said: “Child health hasn’t been put central to any manifesto in the last 20 years, ever, ever, ever. You’ve never seen it on a bus with a number.”

The chef, from Essex, said in his video: “When we’ve got some of the most unhealthy kids in Europe, we need to not have one thing, we need many, many things that are going to help make our kids fitter, healthier, have better outcomes and just flourish and be more productive as adults, and cost the NHS less.”

It comes as the NHS Confederation called on politicians and the British Medical Association to come to a compromise in a bid to avert the disruptive walkout.

It said the main parties should promise to reopen negotiations with junior doctors within 10 days of forming a new government.

In return, doctors in training should call off the strike, the NHS Confederation said.

Junior doctors in England are preparing to stage a full walkout for five days starting from 7am on June 27.

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