FDA, lawmakers investigate safety of energy drinks, ponder potential regulationNov 28, 2012
Federal health officials and lawmakers have launched an investigation into the overall safety of energy drinks after recent reports linked their use to dozens of recent deaths.
According to a Bloomberg report, the Food and Drug Administration has asked an independent adviser to help it review safety records and adverse event reports linked to highly-caffeinated energy drinks. The agency was encouraged to do so by a group of Congressmen led by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who led a Capitol Hill investigation into the reports of deaths linked to energy drinks.
Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, and 5-hour Energy are consumed by millions of people in the U.S., especially younger consumers who believe they need a boost to their daily energy levels to get through their days. These products are heavily marketed, especially Red Bull, which sponsors media attention-grabbing events that only call more attention to their products.
What's more is that energy drinks currently fall out of the regulatory range of the FDA and almost all other laws governing consumer products. Because they're marketed as dietary supplements - they allegedly contain "all natural" ingredients like taurine, ginseng, and others - they are not governed by the FDA. That means regular sodas, sold right next to energy drinks in many retail locations, are regulated stricter than these new and increasingly popular drinks.
Makers of energy drinks claim their products only contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, less even, but some studies refute that claim and believe some energy drinks contain as much as 7-times the amount of caffeine as a regular soft drink. Energy drinks claim to give consumers the boost they're marketed to give through the blend of ingredients like taurine, guarana, and others.
Durbin, along with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said in a statement this week on the FDA launching an investigation and hiring outside help to do so, that they were pleased with the agency's response but hoped that their conclusions would be swift and effective.
In the last month, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released separate reports on recently reported deaths that may be linked to the use of energy drinks. They have also received numerous other reports of adverse health effects that may be caused by energy drinks. Monster, for example, had been linked to 5 deaths and 5-hour Energy at least 13 more. Red Bull and Rockstar energy drinks have not yet been linked to any deaths that have been reported to regulators but that does not mean they're free of risk.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have urged the FDA to determine if there is a direct link between energy drinks and these reported deaths and to take necessary actions to bring them under the agency's control.