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Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations
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Monster Beverage has been sued for allegedly marketing its highly caffeinated Monster Energy Drink to kids, teenagers and young adults. A lawsuit filed by San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera (May 6, 2013) claims the Monster caffeine levels can lead to elevated blood pressure, seizures and cardiac arrest. In October 2012, the parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued Monster after their daughter went into cardiac arrest and died after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy drink in less than 24 hours.
The Monster Energy drink supposedly contains 240 mg of caffeine, about the equivalent of seven cups of coffee (some health experts say the caffeine content in energy drinks can be as high as 550 mg). It also contains other stimulants, including guarana, a natural caffeine-containing plant panax ginseng and taurine. In October 2012, a Consumer Reports investigation found that 27 of the most popular brands of energy drinks in the US contained a different amount of caffeine than was on the label, or did not list the amount of caffeine at all.
The FDA does not require energy drink companies, including Monster, to list the exact amount of caffeine on ingredient labels because the products are regulated as dietary food supplements instead of food. Energy drinks are also sold as nutritional supplements, even though they may not have any nutritional value. Because of this regulation, energy drinks may exceed the FDA-mandated limit of 71 milligrams of caffeine for a 12-ounce soda.
FDA Energy Drink Regulations
As well, the FDA does not allow soda to have more than 0.02 percent caffeine, but energy drinks aren’t subject to this limit.
As of October 2012, the FDA said it is investigating five deaths and one nonfatal heart attack after people consumed Monster Energy drinks.
Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations
The US Drug Abuse Warning Network in 2011 reported a tenfold spike in emergency room visits involving energy drinks. Approximately 70 percent of cases involving teens from ages 12 to 17 going to ER was due to energy drinks itself - without drugs or alcohol. Most hospitalizations are caused by dehydration, heat exhaustion and heart problems. There is also evidence linking the drinks to cancer by frequently over-dosing on folic acid. A January 2013 update from DAWN indicates that from 2007 to 2011 the number of ER visits from energy drinks doubled, with 20,783 reported emergency room visits due to energy drink consumption in 2011.
The parents of Anais Fournier filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Beverage, claiming their energy drink killed their 14-year-old daughter. Anais collapsed after consuming her second 24-ounce Monster Energy drink within a 24-hour period and died six days later. The cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.”
In 2011, University of Miami researchers in the Journal of Pediatrics wrote that “energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit” and that “these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects.” Those health effects include cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythms and sudden death in children who may have hidden heart risks.
Energy Drinks Research and Studies
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which represents more than 400,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 North American colleges and universities, currently prohibits its member institutions from distributing caffeinated energy drinks to student-athletes. The NCAA has concluded that energy drinks “pose a health and safety risk for student-athletes,” and “can have adverse health consequences if consumed before or during strenuous exercise.” Pediatric studies have similarly found that the cardiovascular effects “of heavy caffeine use can be a significant source of morbidity in athletes,” citing new-onset seizures, hypertension, heart palpitations and diuretic effects that can “lead to dehydration in athletes who do not drink enough fluids to compensate.”
A study published by Pediatrics in February 2012 reported that children and teens who consume Monster and other energy drinks are at a heightened risk for: • Caffeine toxicity or poisoning • Dehydration • Heart palpitations • Cardiac arrest • High blood pressure • Death
It added that the risk of dangerous energy drink side effects is even greater for young people who already have heart problems, mood or behavioral disorders, seizures, or who take certain medications. In conclusion, the researchers said that “the known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy drink use. In the short term, pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks in vulnerable populations and screen for consumption to educate families.”
As well, further research is needed regarding how energy drinks affect at-risk populations. Researchers suggested that energy drink sales and consumption should be modified based on this research.
Shortly after Monster was sued by the Fournier family for the wrongful death of their daughter, the SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network issued a report that condemned energy drinks, linking their beverages to an increase of ER visits by children and teens. Monster then challenged the report by questioning the agency’s information regarding the amount of caffeine in its drinks.
Monster Energy Drink Lawsuits
In October 2012, the FDA said it would investigate the five deaths associated with Monster drinks. The city of San Francisco began to investigate Monster’s marketing and sales practices.
Monster then filed a lawsuit against City Attorney Dennis Herrera in federal court on April 29, 2013, for unfairly singling out the company and overstepping his authority, and claiming that Herrera’s actions are unlawful. (People of the State of California v. Monster Beverage Corporation)
The beverage company argues that Herrera’s investigation imposes his own personal views about the dangerousness of its products, usurps federal authority over such issues and makes demands that are out of his area of regulation. Further, his actions are preempted by federal law; they violate the company’s rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and they violate the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by making special demands in California, thereby burdening interstate commerce.
The City of San Francisco then filed a lawsuit (May 6, 2013, in state court) alleging that Monster Beverage markets to children as young as six and therefore violates the California Labor Law; practices unfair competition; mislabels its products; and further violates state laws that regulate foods with additives. The complaint shows in the “Monster Army” social networking site children ages 6 and 11 holding the energy drinks. San Fran City Attorney Dennis Herrera said “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.”
In addition, Herrera demands that Monster Beverage reimburse consumers by paying back all the money in product sales as a result of its alleged unlawful activities and also pay a $2,500 fine per each unlawful act.
A class-action lawsuit filed in California alleges that some of Monster Energy beverages have a “a toxic and potentially lethal ingredient” called “epicallocatechin-3-gallate,” or ECGC, which has been associated with “dangerous hepatotoxic effects, including without limitation, death, acute liver failure, hepatitis and other liver injuries.”
Energy drinks are currently the fastest-growing portion of the beverage market. According to Forbes, energy drink sales rose by more than 16 percent last year and Monster was in the lead, with 35 percent of the market. Monster drinks attract teens with their goth-inspired logo and names such as Java Monster, Lo-Carb Monster and Monster Rehab. The drinks are marketed in magazines and on billboards with slogans like “unleash the beast” and “the meanest energy supplement on the planet.” And their banners are prominent at most extreme sports events. Some of the cans ironically tout the product’s “killer buzz…”
About Monster Beverage Company
Monster Beverage, based in Corona, California, was formerly Hansen Beverage Company that mainly sold kids’ fruit drinks. Its name changed to tap into the success of its energy drinks division. Energy drink sales skyrocketed by 240 percent between 2004 and 2009, with total sales of energy drinks and shots reaching over $12.5 billion in 2012. Monster has the largest market share, with a market capitalization of nearly $10 billion.
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Last updated on Mar-31-15
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