Monster hunch on youth sales

13 June, 2008

Q I have started selling Monster Energy Drink and it's proving very popular, especially with the skateboarding kids of the area. I thought this was fine until I saw the message on the packaging which says it's not recommended for children. Could I be prosecuted or face a licence review if I continue selling to 16 and 17-year-olds?

A Monster contains taurine (an organic acid), ginseng and caffeine, which is not recommended for children or pregnant women. It's no more illegal for you to sell Monster, Red Bull or any

other energy drinks to a customer aged under 18 than it would be to sell them a jar of coffee granules.

We contacted the US headquarters of Monster, whose technical director Thomas Davis said the drink was aimed at 18 to 34-year-olds. He added that cans of Monster contain about half the caffeine of an equivalent measure of coffee.

"Years of scientific research has clearly established the safety of caffeine for the general population, as normally consumed in food and beverages," he says.† "There is no evidence to link caffeine to any serious adverse health effects.

"Contrary to popular belief, children, including those diagnosed as hyperactive, are no more sensitive to caffeine than adults. In general, caffeine is eliminated from the body twice as quickly in children as in adults.

"We are committed to product safety. The warning label that appears on our cans and bottles is voluntary and intended to notify consumers, including parents, that the drink contains caffeine and should be consumed responsibly."

As a responsible retailer you might like to point out to younger customers that caffeine isn't the best thing they could put into their bodies, but you're under no obligation to do so. You may well take the view that it's better they get a slight buzz (and perhaps a subsequent headache) from a caffeine overdose than get off their face on white cider.

Q I have a bottle of Booth's finest Dry Gin 70 Proof London, bottled in 1956 with a registered label on the back. It is unopened, has a yellowish cover over the top and a label "By Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Booth's Distilleries Ltd" under it. The bottle has six sides. Could you tell me whether or not it holds any value and if so, who I would need to contact about the sale of the bottle?

A We asked the Gin & Vodka Association for its view. Assistant director Charles Hobbs said: "Booth's is not made in the UK any more, but still going in the USA. People ring us up now and again and say they can't get Booth's gin any more, so you might say it had some interest. That said, I'm not aware of a collectors' market for old bottles of gin.

"It's really got more of a curiosity factor and, if still unopened, should be drinkable. It certainly won't poison you." But the good news is the GVA will make you a modest offer for your gin and place it in its small but growing museum.

Gin hasn't been under the hammer at Sotheby's or Christie's in the recent past - the fact that gin doesn't age in the bottle would probably mean that any auction price may not be appreciably higher than a freshly-distilled brand.

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