Senators Seek FDA Assistance on Energy Drinks

Democratic senators Dick Durbin (Illinois) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) urged the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to resolve loopholes they say enable energy drink makers to sell products that contain additives and massive amounts of caffeine they say have never been proven safe.

The letter followed an FDA announcement in which it said it was looking into five deaths associated with consumption of Monster energy drinks, said the Detroit Free Press (Freep). The claims allege that consumers suffered adverse health effects after drinking Monster Energy Drink. The beverages are packaged in 24-ounce cans and contain 240 milligrams of caffeine, which is seven times the caffeine found in a 12-ounce can of cola, said Freep. The allegations, which go back to 2004, do not conclusively prove the energy drinks are linked to the fatalities, the FDA pointed out.

Senators Durbin and Blumenthal also cited a recent study in Consumer Reports that revealed that a number of energy drinks reviewed contained much more caffeine than what was listed, and some drinks neglected to indicate the caffeine included, said Freep. While the caffeine allowed in soda is not to exceed 0.02 percent, according to the FDA, there is no limit on allowable caffeine in energy drinks.

The senators asked the FDA to review the caffeine and additives found in energy drinks and asked for a risk assessment of these ingredients when consumed by teenagers, wrote Freep. This is the third time, the senators noted, that they have asked the FDA to assess energy drink safety. This summer, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to energy-drink makers as part of the state’s probe into the products.

We just wrote that 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 FDA 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.

Also, 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.

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