One could speculate as to why Monster appears to prefer the settlement route. Settlements can curb an otherwise costly and drawn-out litigation process. Defendants will also settle out of fear that a court award could be prohibitively high, or as a means to prevent damning details and allegations about a product from coming under a spotlight.
Nonetheless, Monster Energy Corp. continues to settle Monster Energy Drink Deaths and Hospitalizations lawsuits before they go to trial, including that of a 14-year-old teen who went into cardiac arrest and died after drinking two Monster Energy drinks over two successive days.
It should be noted that Monster drink contents, and the Monster caffeine levels that appear to lay at the root of all the trouble, are not regulated as a food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rather, energy drinks are classified as a dietary supplement and thus, are not subject to the same kind of regulatory scrutiny required of other foods and beverages.
LawyersandSettlements (LAS) writer Brenda Craig reminds us that Monster Energy drinks carry a GRAS designation that serves as an acronym for “Generally Recognized as Safe.” The GRAS designation is found within the FDA regulatory framework and is a designation granted by the FDA.
However, critics note that the GRAS designation is not a tough “get.” A manufacturer need only hire a third party to conduct independent tests of the product. The manufacturer can hire who they want - including an entity that potentially might be “friendly” to the manufacturer, although independence is indeed important. The third party, following testing, provides an opinion that, according to its data, the product is thought to be safe. There is no requirement to reveal the data. Provided a third party based on its testing interprets a product as safe, a GRAS designation can be issued.
Critics have long called for energy drinks to be moved, along with the dietary supplement group, to the food group as recognized by the FDA, where energy drinks would require more rigorous testing prior to approval and more rigorous compliance after the fact.
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Meanwhile, plaintiffs continue to file lawsuits alleging Monster energy drink contents are not safe, in spite of the GRAS designation.