The City Attorney of San Francisco is suing energy drink maker, Monster Beverage Corp., claiming that the corporation is marketing their products to children and young teens. City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera claims that Monster Beverage is unique to the energy drink industry in that it markets its products to youth, despite scientific findings that their products may pose grave health dangers.

Mr. Herrera said Monday that “Monster Energy is unique among energy drink makers for the extent to which it targets children and youth in its marketing, despite the known risks its products pose to young people’s health and safety.” He urged the company to “reform its irresponsible and illegal marketing practices before they’re forced to by regulators or courts.”

The Complaint comes just a week after Monster preemptively sued the City Attorney in an attempt to stop his office’s investigation into Monster’s marketing and sales practices. According to the Office of the City Attorney, “Herrera’s office had been working with Monster in good faith to negotiate voluntary changes to its youth-targeted marketing practices when the Corona, California-based energy drink manufacturer abruptly sued the City Attorney in federal court on April 29.”

The Office of the City Attorney reports that Monster violated California law by marketing their products to children as young as 6-years-old, despite scientific findings that highly-caffeinated energy drinks may cause serious negative health effects, including “ ‘significant morbidity in adolescents’ from elevated blood pressure, brain seizures, and severe cardiac events.”

One of the company’s marketing schemes is a website called “Monster Army,” which uses children as young as 6-years-old to promote their products. “Consumption of highly-caffeinated energy drinks by children has been widely condemned by pediatricians and scientists, and the NCAA has banned its member institutions from providing these products even to college athletes because of the grave safety risks,” Herrera noted in the complaint.

The FDA has received numerous adverse events reports related to Monster energy drinks, including incident reports of five deaths. Last year, the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl sued Monster, claiming that caffeine toxicity led to their daughter’s death. And the FDA recently warned about another dangerous aspect of energy drinks, the inclusion of the ingredient dimethylamylamine (DMAA), a synthetically-produced drug used in many energy drinks and dietary supplements. The stimulant DMAA has been found to elevate blood levels and lead to cardiovascular problems, according to the FDA.

Herrera has described Monster as “the industry’s worst offender.” “When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week announced its investigation into the addition of caffeine to products like Monster, it expressed particular concern about aggressive marketing to young people. Yet Monster remains defiant,” he said.

Cameron Stephenson, an attorney with Levin, Papantonio adds, The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly warns that children should not consume energy drinks with caffeine and yet Monster Beverage and other energy drink manufacturers continue to advertise directly to this population. This is just another example of corporate irresponsibility in the name of profits. I applaud Mr. Herrera for his efforts.

Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.