Monster energy drink deaths show regulation loopholes putting consumers at risk

Five deaths blamed on the popular Monster energy drink show severe lapses in government regulation of consumer product safety.

According to a recent New York Times report, the Food and Drug Administration has ramped up its inquiry into the reported deaths of five people after they consumed a Monster energy drink. Meanwhile, the makers of these drinks, Monster Beverage Corp., insist their product is safe and not responsible for the deaths. The company faces legal action from those who believe their drinks have caused deaths and other adverse health complications like a rapid heart rate.

The problem in the case of Monster and other popular energy drinks is that they’re not regulated as a normal consumer food product would be. Instead, energy drinks are considered a dietary supplement because they claim to have all-natural ingredients that are exempt from FDA regulations. And like many other dietary supplements currently on the market, serious questions about the safety of these products certainly exists as more and more people report health problems associated with their use.

And because energy drinks like Monster are not subject to regulations, records on the reported problems associated with them are sparse, especially considering how popular they are. Makers of energy drinks like Monster Beverage Corp. are required to inform the FDA of serious health concerns associated with the use of their product but since 2007, according to the Times report, Monster has submitted just one report, considerably less than the agency already has in its records. That one report issued by Monster Beverage Corp. was of the death of one consumer.

FDA records indicate at least 20 adverse health events that blame Monster energy drinks specifically as the root of the problem. Included in those reports are four deaths.

Energy drinks are sold alongside other popular soft drinks in most retail stores. Monster is sold in tall cans and contains high amounts of caffeine, sometimes as much as seven-times the amount of a regular soda. Energy drink sales have registered in the billions since they flooded the market in the last decade mostly. Particularly troubling is their popularity among younger consumers who are most sensitive to the effects of ingesting too much caffeine.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, who sponsored the legislation in 2007 that required makers of energy drinks and dietary supplements to report to the FDA any serious adverse event reports associated with their products, says the agency is not doing its job in keeping the public informed of the potential dangers of one of these products. He said the multitude of reports citing problems with Monster energy drinks should have prompted some warning from the FDA to the public. Durbin has urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to have the agency take stra

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