Physicians, Researchers, Public Health Experts Seek FDA Action on Caffeine in Energy Drinks
A group of physicians, researchers and public health experts has urged
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to
consider the purported adverse health effects, particularly for children and
adolescents, posed by energy drinks containing high levels of caffeine, apply
existing generally recognized as safe standards to such beverages and require
manufacturers to provide caffeine content on product labels.
In their March 19, 2013, letter, the signatories cite their own and others’
research to claim that an increase in the consumption of products with added
caffeine has been associated with fatalities and injuries, increased emergency
room visits, cardiovascular complications, seizures, childhood obesity, and
risky behaviors when combined with alcohol. They contend that while
caffeine’s effects on adults are known, safe levels for teenagers have not been
In a related development, several energy drink companies, including Monster
Beverage, have reportedly changed their product labels to declare the
caffeine content and decided to cease marketing the products as dietary
supplements, evidently to avoid obligations to report adverse events to
federal regulators. Monster Beverage and Rockstar Energy drinks will now
apparently be marketed as beverages. Monster Energy has also reportedly
become a member of the American Beverage Association.
The initiatives come in the wake of a wrongful death lawsuit against Monster
Beverage and as critics increase their calls for action over safety concerns.
The company recently held a press conference to challenge evidence
submitted in the lawsuit and, according to a news source, has threatened to
sue the publisher of a newsletter for elementary schools over statements the
company says are defamatory.
According to Deborah Kennedy, the nutritionist who writes the newsletter
and called for children from kindergarten through fifth grade not to consume the beverages, the company demanded that she retract and correct the statements or face litigation. A Monster Energy spokesperson reportedly said
that the child of a company employee read the newsletter and was upset by
it. He said, “No child, much less a 7-year-old, should be falsely informed that
his or her father’s employer is a child killer, especially since there are no facts
to support the allegation.” See The New York Times, March 19 and 21, 2013.