Energy drink companies are known to market their products using flashy labels, trendy names, and imagery, ultimately appealing to a younger crowd. Adolescents may not be fully aware of the health risks associated with the overconsumption of energy drinks, making the marketing scheme by energy drink companies a dangerous deception. Now, the deaths of at least two adolescents are being linked to energy drinks, and the potential risks of energy drinks to consumer health, especially for younger people, are coming to light. Medical professionals are calling for the regulation of energy drinks, which are currently not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Nineteen-year-old Alex Morris died suddenly from cardiac arrest in July 2012, and his mother has since filed a lawsuit on his behalf against Monster Beverage Corp., the manufacturers of Monster energy drinks. Morris had consumed two Monster energy drinks a day for two years, and the lawsuit cites that Alex had drank a Monster energy drink before his unexpected death.
An additional lawsuit was filed against the company on behalf of 14-year-old Anais Fournier, who died in 2011 from allegedly drinking a Monster energy drink. The autopsy report on Fournier concluded that she had in fact died from “caffeine toxicity.” According to the New York Times, the Monster brand energy drink that Fournier consumed before her death reportedly contained 240 milligrams of caffeine.
“The caffeine contents found in energy drinks is astounding, and most consumers are not aware that overconsumption of these drinks can lead to serious health risks,” said Virginia Buchanan, an attorney with the firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.
Monster Beverage Corp. did not conduct studies on its product in response to the lawsuits, instead it rebranded its Monster energy drink, changing Monster’s label from “dietary supplement” to “beverage.” The rebranding was a devious move by the company, and a clear signal that the company is risking safety over profit, as products labeled as “beverages” are only required to list the caffeine content of a product on its label and are not responsible for reporting associated deaths.
Still, evidence is mounting against Monster Beverage Corp. and its energy drink competitors. The FDA has linked at least 5 deaths between 2009 and 2012 to the consumption of Monster energy drinks. Also, thirteen deaths have been linked to the popular energy drink, 5-Hour Energy, and Four Loko dropped caffeine from its alcoholic malt beverage in 2010 when the FDA intervened after numerous adolescents ended up in the hospital after consuming the drink.
The FDA launched an official investigation probing food and beverage products containing caffeine, and an adverse report was published in October 2012 exposing the dangers associated with energy drinks. People have been consuming energy drinks for years, and the risks associated with the beverages have always been disputed. However, with the recent cases of death occurring and being linked to energy drinks, it is becoming clear that just because a product has been on the market for years doesn’t mean it is safe. Tylenol, for instance, has been on the market for years, yet recent deaths and injuries strengthened the link between the over-the-counter drug to acute liver failure.
Unless energy drinks are regulated to be made safer and companies are held accountable, death and injury will only continue to occur from the dangerous overconsumption of energy drinks by consumers.
Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.