As Americans begin to turn away from traditional sodas, highly-caffeinated energy drinks like Rockstar and Monster are gaining much of the beverage market share. Unfortunately, aside from being massively caloric and generally nutritionally empty, they’re also pretty dangerous. So dangerous, in fact, that the FDA is currently investigating Monster in the death of five individuals, as well as one non-fatal heart attack in a sixth victim.
According to the AP, the FDA hasn’t conclusively proven that the drink was the cause of the five deaths and heart attack, but the agency has acknowledged that a link is being carefully probed. But this is far from the first time that an energy drink–and Monster, specifically–has been criticized or investigated for potentially having a hand in consumer deaths. And, I predict, it won’t be the last.
Out of concern for students, multiple school counties have boldly opted to ban the drinks from their vending machines. Their concern isn’t unwarranted; in March, a 14-year-old who drank 48 ounces of the stuff died of “caffeine toxicity.” Her parents later filed a wrongful death lawsuit. And who can forget Four Loko, the energy drink/alcohol combination that was also blamed for multiple deaths and injuries, including the death of a minor, before pressure from lawmakers prompted them to rework its formula (to no longer include caffeine)?
Unfortunately, none of the lawsuits or inquiries have had much effect on the burgeoning industry, aside from the change to Four Loko’s recipe. They are, however, key in ensuring that the safety of energy drinks like Monster remain an FDA priority.
Because energy drinks are still relatively new, the laws and regulations about how much caffeine and other additives they can contain haven’t really been very carefully examined. The same goes for labeling, which is often unclear. As a result, the industry is still pretty widely unchecked, with little to no oversight to protect consumers (many of whom are kids and teens).
But that doesn’t sit right with a lot of lawmakers. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently subpoenaed Monster, alongside Pepsi and the maker of 5-Hour Energy, because he felt their unclear labels were deemed cause for concern. That case is still pending, but will, hopefully, end with more transparent labeling, to help consumers make more informed decisions.
With the popularity of energy drinks trending steadily upward, it seems obvious that consumer protection organizations would want to ensure that the products are safe–or at least, that they warn consumers of the health risks they may pose. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the manufacturers of these drinks will take responsibility and do it without having their hand forced.
I have a feeling we’ll see a lot more of these lawsuits in the very near future.
Image by Flickr user homard.net