British retailers Asda and Aldi are joining Waitrose in banning the sale of energy drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to children under 16 years old.

The decision comes as a result of recent studies showing that high levels of sugar and caffeine in energy drinks are dangerous for children.

Current labelling guidelines that require soft drinks that contain over 150mg of caffeine per litre to include a warning on its packaging that the product is ‘not recommended for children’ are beginning to be seen as insufficient by retailers and consumer groups.

One can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine and a 16oz can of Monster Energy has 160mg of caffeine, both of which work out to approximately 320mg per litre.

Chief customer officer at Asda, Andrew Murray, said: “We take our responsibilities as a retailer seriously and work hard to ensure we get the balance right between offering choice and doing the right thing. We have listened to our customers and want to take a leading position in this area to support parents and teachers in limiting young peoples’ access to high caffeine drinks.”

Oliver King, managing director of corporate responsibility at Aldi, said: “We are introducing this age restriction in response to growing concern about the consumption of energy drinks among young people.”

To supplement existing evidence that prove the negative effects of energy drinks on children, Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, conducted a study in collaboration with north eastern universities into young people’s perception of energy drinks at the end of 2017. The researchers spoke to focus groups of children between ten and 14 in County Durham, North East England and visited local shops.

The study found that energy drinks are easily available to under-16s, and marketing of high-caffeine drinks, which focuses on extreme sports, gaming, and sexuality, including the use of sexualised imagery, is available to view by children via online pop-up adverts, television and sports sponsorship. It also showed that while children are aware of some of the ingredients and some of the risks of energy drinks, they are not sure exactly how much sugar or caffeine the drinks contain.

Amelia Lake, Fuse associate director, said: “What’s interesting is the young people are essentially asking why these drinks are being sold and marketed to them when we know they are not good for them…They are asking, why aren’t energy drinks age restricted like cigarettes? Why can they get them so easily? But they are also well aware there isn’t a simple solution. Schools have tried restricting these drinks – now it’s time to try and do something more central.”

Asda will introduce itsonline and in-store age restriction on its 84 products that qualify as having over 150mg of caffeine per litre on 5 March 2018, the same day as Waitrose. Aldi will require ID for the purchase of eligible energy drinks from 1 March 2018.