High Energy Drinks Take Cover in Food Category

High energy drinks that have allegedly played a role in some deaths are now moving to the food aisle where they will face tighter labeling regulations.

But the switch will also allow the manufacturers of these high-caffeine and other additive drinks to not reveal reports to federal regulators linking its products to deaths and injuries, according to the NY Times.

The change from nurtrition to beverage has been adopted by two high-caffeine drinks Monster, and Rockstar Energy.

The move might also help the high energy drink companies in the long run, because now they will be listing total caffeine content in addition to other labeling changes.

Last year Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman opened an investigation about whether the companies — Monster Beverage, PepsiCo and Living Essentials — violated federal law in promoting the drinks as dietary supplements rather than as foods.

In one instance a young girl Anais Fournier died after consuming two Monster drinks more than 24 hours apart, but she had a pre-existing heart condition.

In a public statement issued on March 4, a company spokesperson said that they had hired a number of experts to examine Ms. Fournier’s death, and concluded that the drink had had nothing to do with it.

“After an examination of Ms. Fournier’s medical records, pathology report and autopsy report, the physicians stated conclusively that there is no medical, scientific or factual evidence to support the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Report of ‘caffeine toxicity’ or that Ms. Fournier’s consumption of two Monster Energy Drinks 24 hours apart contributed to, let alone was the cause of her untimely death,” said Daniel Callahan, of Callahan & Blaine, one of Monster’s lawyers.

Five other deaths allegedly related to energy drinks have been reported, but none have been publicly substantiated as resulting from the consumption of the drinks alone.

Monster had been selling its high energy drink as a dietary supplement, apparently in an efffort to convince consumers that its product was different from beverages.

Now the labeling on their drinks and on Rockstar’s will change from detailing nutritional vitamin content, to an emphasis on contents like sugar, caffeine and calories. They will also be sold in the beverage section of stores.

Anyone with a pre-existing condition that could be triggered by a large dose of caffeine should check with their doctor first before indulging.

Still, the caffeine content of one 16.9 ounce Monster can at 169 mg is less than a 12-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee, at 260 mg, according to EnergyFiend.com.  But a Mega Monster can contains 240 mg in its 24 ounces, equivalent to three servings of a regular cup of coffee.

EnergyFiend hosts a “death by caffeine” widget that allows you to enter in your body weight, the product you are consuming and learn how much of that product could kill you.

Using their widget, if you weigh 69 pounds, the size of a 10-year-old child, you need to drink 36 cans of Starbuck’s Double-Shot espresso and cream to expire: but you need only 29 cans of Monster Energy drink to do the same job.

Rising number energy drink users visiting emergency rooms–

Though it’s not clear that EnergyFiend’s widget is accurate, media reports state that there are a rising number of patients, many of them young people being treated in emergency rooms for complications related to highly caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster Energy and 5-Hour Energy.

A federal study stated that visits to emergency rooms for treatment after ingesting energy drinks more than doubled, from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011. In each of those years from 2007 to 2011 there were more visits by men than by women, and the greatest increase of any age group in the consumption of energy drinks were 40 years old and greater.  Their numbers increased by 279% over this 4-year period, from 1, 382 visits to 5,233 visits.

More than 40 percent of those being hospitalized had taken another drug at the same time. The study, completed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, pointed to a disturbing relationship between substance abuse and the use of energy shots to mask the effects of other drugs, or to use them to drive, but to the point where users drank more alcohol or smoked more dope because they planned to use an energy shot afterwards.

“In one study, bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were 3 times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and were 4 times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated than those who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks. This latter finding may be because the high levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can mask the symptoms associated with being intoxicated (e.g., feeling lethargic).”

Monster refuted the claims of the federal study, stating in part that the study was not able to separate out the competing causes of emergency room visits attributable to drugs or other substances on the one hand, and energy drinks on the other.

“The DAWN report reflects no medical finding or diagnosis that consumption of energy drinks was, in fact, the reason for the patient’s emergency room visit,” they wrote in a public statement.

“Any causal connection between energy drink consumption and emergency room visits is further substantially weakened by the
existence of other factors more likely to have been responsible for the patients’ medical issues, such as the use of
pharmaceuticals, alcohol or illegal drugs, which was reported by 42% of patients, according to the DAWN report.”

The energy drink industry, which had estimated sales last year of more than $10 billion, has come under increasing scrutiny after disclosures that the Food and Drug Administration has received numerous reports of deaths and injuries in which the drinks were mentioned.

Mention of a product in the F.D.A. report does not mean it played a role in a death or an injury, and energy drink producers say that their beverages are safe.

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