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Energy Drinks’ Health Danger Being Probed by U.S.

By Anna Edney
November 27, 2012 11:36 AM EST
Monster Beverage Corp. energy drinks.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Monster Beverage Corp. energy drinks.

Energy drinks, such as those made by Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST) and Living Essentials LLC, are being investigated by U.S. regulators who will determine if the products are dangerous and may need to be regulated.

The Food and Drug Administration is employing the help of outside advisers in a review of the highly caffeinated drinks. The agency wants to determine whether the beverages, which have been linked to deaths, may cause harm when consumed in excess or by young people or those with pre-existing cardiac conditions, the FDA wrote in a letter to Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, of Illinois, released today.

Based on the review, the agency may move to regulate the product’s use or labeling. The FDA said it will also look into whether the drinks’ ingredients in addition to caffeine are safe. The agency said it hadn’t seen problems with two main additives, taurine and guarana.

“I am glad to see that the FDA is undertaking a review but more needs to be done and quickly,” Durbin and Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement. “For instance, FDA can and should take action now to regulate energy drinks that are marketed as beverages.”

Energy drinks aren’t bound by the FDA guidelines for caffeine in sodas because they are often sold as dietary supplements. Soda typically can have as many as 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces and be considered safe by the FDA.

Caffeine in energy drinks often ranges from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams a serving, the FDA said in an August letter responding to Durbin’s call for greater regulation.

Adverse Reports

Monster drinks have been linked to five deaths, while 5- Hour Energy products have each been associated with 13 in adverse event reports submitted to the FDA, while Rockstar Inc. and Red Bull energy drinks haven’t been connected to any deaths. All four brands were cited in relation to side effects such as increased heart rate and abdominal pain. The data posted on FDA’s website cover Jan. 1, 2004 to Oct. 23, 2012.

The FDA hasn’t released data for other competitors such as PepsiCo Inc. (PEP)’s AMP Energy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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