Another energy product has come under fire for its possible connection to several deaths. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of 13 deaths in the past four years that are potentially linked to 5-Hour Energy, a highly caffeinated energy beverage.
According to this article in the NY Times, 5-Hour Energy has been mentioned in approximately 90 filings with the FDA since 2009, including more than 30 incidents that involved serious or life-threatening injuries such as heart attacks, convulsions, and spontaneous abortion. Although the FDA reports do not establish responsibility for a death or injury, the reports can be used to spur additional investigation and inquiry.
The energy drink industry as a whole has come under significant scrutiny lately. As we recently reported, Monster energy drinks recently came under fire for their connection to the deaths of five people in the past year. According to this article in Bloomberg Business Week, reports submitted to the FDA indicating that the victims consumed Monster drinks prior to their deaths are being used as supporting evidence in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a Maryland victim. The lawsuit alleges that the energy drinks led to caffeine toxicity that killed their 14-year-old daughter.
The FDA has already taken action to prevent the dangers associated with the combination of caffeine and alcohol when it issued warning letters to four manufacturers of beverages containing both alcohol and caffeine, such as Four Loko and Joose, in November 2010, admonishing the companies for violations of federal law and effectively banning the beverages from store shelves throughout the country. At that time, the FDA deemed the added caffeine in the companies’ malt alcoholic beverages an “unsafe food additive” and directed the companies to take immediate action to remedy the violation or face possible seizure of the products.
Some lawmakers are calling for additional measures to be taken. In fact, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has asked the FDA to consider caffeine limits on energy drinks due to the reports that emergency room visits involving energy drinks increased 10-fold from 2005 through 2009 up to 13,114, with about half of the ER visits made by patients age 18 to 25 and also involving drugs or alcohol. The medical conditions cited in the reports often include symptoms associated with heart attack, chest pain, and vomiting.
Unlike other energy drinks, 5-Hour Energy is sold in a two-ounce bottle referred to as a shot. Although the manufacturer of 5-Hour Energy, Living Essentials, does not disclose the amount of caffeine in each shot, a recent article published by Consumer Reports estimated the amount of caffeine at about 207 milligrams. By comparison, an eight-ounce cup of coffee typically contains between 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine.