FSA warns glycerol in slush-ice drinks “not suitable for under-fours”
The FSA has issued new industry guidance, stating that glycerol in slush-ice drinks should not be sold to children four and under.
Advising the industry, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has released voluntary industry guidance on glycerol in slush-ice drinks, and has stated that that they should not be sold to children four years of age and under.
In addition the Agency has advised manufacturers to tell retailers that they should “not offer free refill promotions to under-10s”, as a way to prevent young children being exposed to excessive amounts of glycerol.
This guidance came following an FSA risk assessment which found that children below this age “may suffer from headaches and sickness caused by exposure to glycerol”. In fact, the Agency has highlighted that it is aware of two cases in Scotland (in 2021 and in 2022) where children were reportedly hospitalised because of glycerol intoxication.
“At very high levels of exposure – typically when several of these products are drunk by a child in a short space of time glycerol intoxication could cause shock, hypoglycaemia and loss of consciousness,” said the FSA.
Commenting on the new guidance, Adam Hardgrave, FSA Head of Additives, said: “While the symptoms of glycerol intoxication are usually mild, it is important that parents are aware of the risks particularly at high levels of consumption.
“It is likely that there is under-reporting of glycerol intoxication, as parents may attribute nausea and headaches to other factors. We are grateful to those manufacturers who have already taken steps to reduce levels of glycerol, and to those who have already told us they will be adopting our new guidelines.”
While glycerol is present in other foods, it is added at much lower quantities than in slush ice drinks, according to the FSA. In order to create the slush effect in drinks, glycerol is used as a substitute for sugar. The FSA’s new guidance asks businesses to only add glycerol at the “minimum quantity” technically necessary to achieve this effect.
“Those above the age of four are considered unlikely to suffer ill effects from drinking one slush drink. This is because the effects of glycerol are related to body weight,” said the FSA.
Looking to the future, the Agency has said that, if the maximum levels of glycerol used by industry decrease, the new industry guidelines may be reassessed.