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As the Number of Emergency Visits Involving Energy Drinks Rises, Individuals and Groups Push the FDA for Increased Regulation

In March 2013, a group of doctors and researchers sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) urging it to take action to protect teens and children from the health risks associated with energy drink consumption. The letter specifically states that there is scientific evidence that the high level of caffeine in energy drinks–about 80 to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, compared with amount 100 mg in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce soda–have adverse health and safety consequences.

Indeed, in the eight years since energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, and 5-Hour Energy have been on the market, the FDA has reported six deaths and eighteen hospitalizations associated with the energy drink Monster alone. In addition, according to the FDA, 5-Hour Energy drinks have been cited in 13 deaths in the last four years. Moreover, federal data shows that the number of emergency department visits involving energy drinks doubled from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits in the U.S., the majority of energy drink-related emergency department visits involved either adverse reactions or misuse or abuse of drugs. Although males make up two-thirds of the energy drink-related emergency room visits since 2007, emergency room visits doubled for both sexes from 2007 to 2011. Finally, of the 20,783 emergency room visits in 2011, 58% involved only energy drinks, while the remaining 42% involved other drugs as well.

Typical problems linked to excessive caffeine consumption can include anxiety, headaches, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks. Other possible side effects include:

  • Caffeine toxicity
  • High blood pressure
  • Withdrawal
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Death

Notably, effects of the energy drink are even more heightened in individuals that suffer from certain pre-existing or undiagnosed conditions, including heart problems, epilepsy, seizures, mood or behavioral disorders. Individuals who use certain medications or other supplements may also be at a higher risk of health complications.

Recent Lawsuits
These deaths and hospitalizations have led to an array of lawsuits against energy drink companies. Last year, the family of a 14-year old Maryland girl sued Monster Beverage, alleging that its energy drink was responsible for the girl’s death. The teenage girl went into cardiac arrest after drinking two, 24-ounce cans of Monster in a 24-hour period. Monster Beverage denies the allegations, stating that a team of physicians they hired to review the girl’s medical records found no evidence to show caffeine was a factor in the girl’s death, concluding that she likely died of natural causes.

In addition, a class action lawsuit was also filed against Monster Beverage by its shareholders, alleging that the company knowingly marketed, advertised, and sold the drink as a safe beverage despite its toxic mix of ingredients.

Labeling and Reporting Changes

Although the labeling on Monster’s cans clearly state the drinks are not for children or pregnant women, the label can be misleading since Monster’s marketing is geared towards teens and young adults. Monster says that although the target market is 18 to 34 years old, its drinks are still safe for children.

Additionally, until recently, Monster was not disclosing the caffeine levels of its drinks. However, following on the heels of its competitor, Rockstar, Monster has decided to sell its energy drinks as a beverage after a decade of selling it as a dietary supplement. This leads to new regulation and labeling requirements. Specifically, since the FDA more heavily regulates dietary supplements, Monster will no longer have to tell the FDA about reports potentially linking its energy drink to injuries and death now that it is classified as a beverage. Moreover, not only will the labels be easier to read on the beverage cans, but Monster’s new labels will begin disclosing the amount of caffeine content in each can.

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury as a result of consuming an energy drink, the San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to help. Call us toll-free at 1-800-862-1260.

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