MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Monday night, a WCCO-TV investigation showed a popular trampoline park selling highly caffeinated energy drinks and energy shots to kids. In the story’s aftermath, the two Skyzone parks in Minnesota pulled energy drinks from their shelves and are no longer selling them.
But the drinks are easy to find — from convenience stores to supermarkets — and their bright colors and marketing campaigns appeal to young people.
The initial story showed how two 12-year-old girls got sick after drinking energy shots at Skyzone. While they recovered, there is concern in the medical community that such drinks are dangerous for kids, especially if they’re on certain medications or have certain pre-existing conditions.
The FDA limits the amount of caffeine in pop to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces. But when it comes to energy drinks, there are no FDA limits on caffeine, because they are considered to be nutritional supplements by the U.S. government.
While the FDA says they are nutritional supplements, the American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit and for some children have been linked to serious medical problems.
The report warns that the drinks are being marketed to kids and are easily available — just the way they were at Skyzone.
Ted Labuza, a professor of food science and nutrition at the U of M, said there should be a requirement in order to buy energy drinks.
“There probably should be some kind of requirement that you should be 18 or older to even have this stuff, but even at 18 there is a risk,” he said.
Most of the bottle drinks do have warning labels that are in fine print. The warning on the bottle at Skyzone says, “Caution: Powerful: not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women or those sensitive to caffeine.”
Mackenzie Hodge and her friend Kelli Pehrson got sick at Skyzone after drinking one energy drink and two energy shots.
“I started to not feel good after I finished the slushie and I upchucked,” Hodge said.
Lab tests showed the girls drank the equivalent of three 12 ounce Mountain Dews in 90 minutes. The Academy of Pediatrics warns that energy drinks are especially risky for kids who are on ADHD medications and have a history of seizures, diabetes, heart problems and mood disorders.
Labuza said the drinks can cause sweating, heart palpitations and nausea in kids. Those symptoms, he said, can lead to heart attack.
The Minnesota Skyzone franchises are no longer selling caffeinated energy drinks or shots. However, there are 37 Skyzones franchises that are operating or are about to open in markets across the country. We reached out to Skyzone to see if other franchises have also sold caffeinated energy drinks or shots. But we were told Jeff Platt, the CEO of Slyzone, was unavailable for comment.