Doctors Warns Against This Sugary Drink After it Proves Almost Fatal for 2 Toddlers

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: Feb 18, 2024

Recent incidents have brought to light the potential dangers associated with iced slushy drinks, particularly for young children.

Two cases within a week involved toddlers, one aged three and the other four, who were hospitalized after consuming these popular beverages. The incidents have raised concerns about the safety of these drinks, which are sold in cinemas, shops, and play parks.

Glycerol: The Culprit Behind the Danger

The Daily Mail reports that the common factor in both cases was glycerol, an additive used in slushies to prevent them from freezing solid and to act as a sugar-free sweetener.

Three plastic cups of slushy drinks are placed on a wooden table. From left to right, there's a red slushy with a yellow straw, a cola-flavored slushy with a dark hue and a black straw, and a blue slushy with a purple straw

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Known as E422, glycerol gives slushies their characteristic slushy texture. While it is only mildly toxic to humans and poses little danger in small quantities, the incidents suggest that young children may be more vulnerable to its effects.

The Impact of Glycerol on Young Children

For adults and older children, the body can process glycerol before it accumulates to harmful levels. However, for children under four, their significantly lower body weight means the threshold for glycerol to become dangerous is much lower, via information from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The back view of two young children walking away from the camera along a path. The girl on the left wears a white top and a pink tutu skirt with white tights, and the boy on the right is dressed in a blue striped shirt and khaki pants

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A single 350ml slushy drink containing high levels of glycerol could potentially exceed the “safe” limit for young children, leading to serious health concerns, The Daily Mail notes.

Symptoms of Glycerol Intoxication

Glycerol intoxication can manifest in several ways, ranging from mild to severe. Initial signs include vomiting and headaches, which can escalate to more serious conditions such as shock and hypoglycemia, according to the FSA.

A young boy is lying on a wooden bed with his head on a patterned pillow. He appears unwell, holding his forehead with one hand

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MedlinePlus explains that shock is particularly dangerous as it hampers the circulatory system’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, putting vital organs at risk.

Shocking Cases of Glycerol Intoxication

The potential dangers of glycerol came to the forefront with the cases of two young children. The Mirror reveals in one instance, a four-year-old boy named Albie became unresponsive after drinking a strawberry-flavored slushy during an after school bowling trip. 

A young boy with blond hair, wearing a green and black checkered shirt, is being examined by a doctor with a stethoscope. The doctor, in a white coat, is focused on listening to the boy's chest

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His condition deteriorated rapidly, leading to hallucinations and a critical drop in blood sugar levels that required hospitalization.

A Close Call for a Young Child

The Daily Mail recounts another alarming case involved a three-year-old boy named Angus, who collapsed and fell unconscious approximately 30 minutes after consuming a raspberry-flavored slushy. 

A young child, looking unwell, is lying on a gray sofa with his head on an adult's lap. The adult's hands are gently placed on the child's forehead and cheek

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His mother, Victoria Anderson, described his body as limp and “stone cold” as paramedics rushed to revive him. Angus’ blood sugar had fallen to dangerously low levels, necessitating urgent medical attention.


Regulatory Response to Slushy Safety Concerns

Following these incidents, the FSA issued guidance advising against the sale of slushy drinks to children under four. 

A vibrant concession stand displays an array of treats, with bright signs for 'SLUSHIES' and 'COTTON CANDY' overhead

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The FSA also recommended that retailers refrain from offering free refills on slushies to children under ten and called on manufacturers to minimize the addition of glycerol in their products.


Monitoring and Compliance Efforts

The FSA has indicated it will be monitoring the industry’s compliance with its guidance closely. 

Three slushy machines are aligned next to each other, each filled to the indicated maximum level with different colored slushy drinks. From left to right, the slushies are blue, red, and green

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Although, The Daily Mail reports that the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) asserts that all its members are following the new guidelines, the FSA remains vigilant and has not ruled out taking further action to ensure the safety of these popular children’s drinks.


Glycerol's Presence in Other Foods

While the focus has been on slushies, The Daily Mail reveals that glycerol is also used in other food products such as precooked pasta, rice, and breakfast cereals, albeit in much lower quantities.

Close-up view of a bowl filled with Fruit Loops cereal. The cereal consists of many brightly colored, ring-shaped pieces in shades of yellow, green, blue, red, and purple, with a dusting of sugar visible on the surface

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These levels are not considered hazardous to children, highlighting the unique risk posed by the higher concentrations found in slushy drinks.


The Importance of Parental Awareness

The incidents involving Albie and Angus underscore the importance of parental awareness regarding the contents of children’s beverages. 

A close-up image capturing a tender moment between a mother and her child at an outdoor event. The mother, seen from behind, with long hair, is holding her young child with curly red hair

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Both cases resulted in the children receiving the necessary medical care, but they serve as a stark reminder of the potential risks associated with certain food additives, particularly for young children.


Guidance from Health Authorities

In light of these cases, health authorities have issued warnings and guidance to prevent similar incidents.

Close-up of a two-toned slushy drink held up against a bright blue sky. The top half of the slushy is a frosty blue, while the bottom half is a golden yellow

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The advice from the FSA, based on a slushy containing 50,000mg/l of glycerol, aims to protect young children from the adverse effects of glycerol intoxication.


The Call for Vigilance and Action

The recent guidance and the cases of glycerol intoxication in young children have highlighted the need for vigilance among parents, manufacturers, and retailers alike. 

A close-up image of a vibrant red strawberry slushy in a clear plastic cup with a 'London' logo, set against a bright yellow background. The slushy has a frosted texture and is filled above the rim of the cup

Source: LONDON SLUSH/Pexels

While slushy drinks remain a popular treat, the safety of the youngest consumers must be a priority, prompting all involved to ensure these beverages are safe for all ages.