Monster Beverages is being sued by the family of a 14-year-old girl from Maryland who died in December 11, 2011. She developed a heart arrhythmia after drinking cans of Monster Energy drink that is very high in caffeine. The lawsuit alleges that Monster did not warn about the health risks of its drinks.
The drinks, and their caffeine content, are not regulated by the FDA since they are considered a “dietary supplement” and are not required to establish safety of their products or adhere to caffeine limits. Caffeine levels in soft drinks are limited to 0.02% or less of the product, which is about 71 mg in a 12 ounce soda. Teenagers should limit caffeine consumption to no more than 100 mg daily, according to pediatricians.
FDA spokesperson Shelly Burgess said the government has, in the last three years, received reports of five deaths and a heart attack linked to the drink. There have been other incident reports linking the beverage to vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, and abnormal heart rates. The journal Pediatrics has stated that “energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects.”
FDA regulations do not require companies to disclose caffeine levels in their products. They can be marketed as drinks or as dietary supplements, which have different labeling laws. Caffeine is a stimulant drug. A 24-ounce can of Monster energy contains 240 milligrams of caffeine. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called for an investigation into the drinks last April.
Senator Durbin said in a press release, “consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases death. Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth, their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination.” He also references a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that shows energy drinks pose serious health risks. That agency’s report states that the number of emergency room visits due to energy drinks increased from 1,128 to 13,114 in the period from 2005 to 2009.
Durbin is also introducing legislation called the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act that would require dietary supplement manufacturers to disclose the known risks of the ingredients in their products. The Act would also require mandatory warning label if the product contains an ingredient that could cause health problems.