Will Energy Drinks Encounter Regulation

Even though adults do occasionally feel the need to consume a caffeinated beverage as a pick-me-up, is it a good idea for growing children to do the same? Dr. Michael Omidi looks at the push to make energy drink manufacturers cap the amount of caffeine in their products and cease marketing their drinks to children.

Energy drinks have become extremely common on the teenage landscape. Even though the amount of caffeine a child should drink is considerably less than what an adult can safely consume, energy drinks are typically marketed to the teenage demographic, and it isn’t unusual for a high school aged child to drink several large-sized energy drinks per day.

Recently, a team of 18 physicians, public health officials, and researchers wrote a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, formally asking the body to force manufacturers of energy drinks to limit the caffeine content and disclose the amount on their product labels in order to protect children from the adverse affects of the over-consumption of caffeine. Dennis J. Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney who is currently investigating the energy beverage industry, also sent such a letter to the FDA regarding the caffeine content of energy drinks.[1]

The group stated that energy drink manufacturers had failed to provide sufficient data demonstrating that the drinks were safe for children and teenagers.

The manufacturers of energy drinks have long held that the energizing components of energy drinks were not necessarily caffeine, but a combination of herbal supplements held to increase energy. They have furthermore stated that the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is roughly the same as other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola.

The health officials’ concerns were sparked by the significant uptick in emergency room visits by teenagers who claim that the consumption of an energy beverage was the factor in their medical distress. The number of emergency room visits in 2011 wherein energy drinks were disclosed as the causal element increased by 50 percent since 2007. 

Monster Beverage, the manufacturer of the energy drink that was cited in a lawsuit as being the cause of the death of a 14 year old girl, plans to re-market its product as a beverage rather than a dietary supplement, a move that could exempt it from disclosing reports to federal regulatory boards about deaths and illnesses that were linked to the drink. Nonetheless, as a beverage, Monster Energy Drink will have to undergo more stringent manufacturing regulations that it did as a dietary supplement.[2]

Monster Beverage, the largest manufacturer of energy drinks in the United States, has also threatened to sue the author of an elementary school newsletter for stating that energy drinks were the cause of the deaths of children, and that kids should never drink them.  The author, nutritionist Deborah Kennedy, has stated that she was referring to sugary, caffeinated drinks in general, and that Monster Energy Drinks were never mentioned.

By Dr. Michael Omidi

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[1] Meier, Barry: Doctors Urge FDA to Restrict Caffeine in Energy Drinks New York Times 3/19/2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/doctors-urge-fda-to-restrict-caffeine-in-energy-drinks.html?ref=health

[2] Meier, Barry: In a New Aisle, Energy Drinks Sidestep Some Rules New York Times 3/20/2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/in-a-new-aisle-energy-drinks-sidestep-rules.html?pagewanted=1&ref=business

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