Monster Energy Drinks and their competitors have been pretty famously under-regulated. After years of providing zero nutritional content and more caffeine than anyone really needs, the largest energy drink supplier in the country was finally being investigated by the FDA for the deaths of five people and the non-fatal heart attack of another consumer. But don’t worry, Monster has found a way to sidestep this little inconvenience.
Originally, energy drinks wanted to prove that they were different from normal pop and soda. So instead of classifying their products as “beverages,” they went for the much more healthy-sounding “dietary supplement.” For years, Monster and Rockstar were both manufactured and labeled as supplements.
However, this distinction back-fired once people realized just how unhealthy energy drinks are. See, dietary supplements have to inform the FDA when their products are linked to death or injury. Beverages, however, don’t have to follow this particular rule. So guess what Monster wants to be known as now? A beverage, of course!
According to company spokesman Michael Sitrick, the company isn’t trying to dodge regulation. They just want to make their product available to a wider variety of people. See, as a dietary supplement, Monster couldn’t be purchased with government assistance programs like SNAP. As a beverage, food stamp recipients will be able to purchase energy drinks. To be fair, this distinction might help the company’s bottom line, with a new pool of possible consumers open to them for the first time.
Still, the timing of the switch, in the middle of the FDA’s investigation into their safety, is more than a little suspect. Monster, and other energy drink companies, all claim to have no responsibility in the deaths that have stirred this controversy. They are positive that their products are safe.
But I have to wonder, how many in the Monster corporation are feeding energy drinks to their children? How many of them are so sure about its safety that their willing to have their own kids drink those caffeine-rich beverages? The answer to that question might be quite telling. Unfortunately, no one will ever know, especially not when corporations are capable of simply choosing which FDA regulations they want to fall under.
(Photo: Monster Energy)