Drink with caution. The popular Monster energy drinks have been linked to the deaths of five people in the past year, according to reports submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This article in Bloomberg Business Week indicates that reports submitted to the FDA indicated that the victims consumed Monster drinks prior to their deaths. Although the reports are treated as allegations, with no conclusions drawn until an investigation is completed, the reports 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.
In light of the reports, 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.
According to the article, the five death reports, along with a sixth death in 2009, were among 37 adverse reaction reports received since 2004 that mentioned Monster drinks.
Energy drinks like Monster and its competitor Red Bull are not subject FDA guidelines for caffeine like sodas are because energy drinks are often sold as dietary supplements. Moreover, Monster doesn’t specify the amount of caffeine in its product.
Soda are generally allowed to have up to 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces in order for the FDA to deem the product safe, but caffeine levels in energy drinks often range from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams a serving, according to an FDA letter responding to Senator Durbin’s call for greater regulation of the industry. The FDA has said it is currently working on developing guidelines to ensure that energy drinks are safe for consumption.
As we previously reported, 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.