Does the energy drink Monster market caffeine-loaded drinks to young consumers? And is this OK?
Those are the questions being posed by the Food and Drug Administration who is investigating the affects of caffeine on young people, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera who is suing Monster Beverage Corporation for its marketing practices.
Monster is the country's largest seller of energy drinks by volume, and thus the focus of the scrutiny. The City Attorney is accusing Monster of marketing highly caffeinated drinks to minors as young as 6 years old. And, as lawyerly fights often go, Monster is suing Herrera of singling out Monster and threatening to block sales of its drinks in their current form.
It is all a fight around whether caffeine levels in energy drinks and other products (Wrigley’s just came out with caffeine-laced gum) are too high—imposing health risks on young people and adults.
The FDA said the proliferation of energy drinks spiked with the stimulant was "very disturbing." The issue is the excessive consumption of caffeine-laced drinks. Energy drinks boosted with caffeine can lead to elevated blood pressure, brain seizures and severe cardiac arrest in young people, according to research cited by Herrera. The FDA is looking into reports citing Monster drinks in five deaths in a single year, though the agency said it has not established any causal link.
Energy drinks and shots (like 5-Hour Energy) grew 60% between 2008 to 2012, according to research group Packaged Facts. Monster’s sales last year along grew by 21%.
Monster, and other energy drink makers have been posting warning labels on its products, and suggest that its energy drinks have similar or less caffeine per ounce than say a Starbucks drink. The problem the FDA and Herrera see is the misuse of the drinks through guzzling and chugging the drinks without knowledge of in the unintended health affects.