“Once again, we reiterate that our products are safe,” he said, in comments published in The Press Enterprise.
There are various lawsuits and legal activity percolating around the controversial products containing high caffeine levels and other additives designed to provide a boost of energy. And even though the company reported a dip in profits in the first quarter of 2013 due to legal costs and other one-time charges, sales of Monster products continue to climb higher, with sales up 7.3 percent for Q1 over the same period a year ago.
This, in spite of the Anais Fournier lawsuit. Fournier, from Maryland, was 14 when she consumed two, 24-ounce cans of a Monster energy drink within 24 hours. The teen died soon after consuming the second drink, in 2011. On her death certificate, according to reports, caffeine toxicity was identified as a contributing factor.
Energy drinks, a sector to which Monster products belong, contain levels of caffeine that are much higher than standard-fare soft drinks. However, due to the capacity for energy drink manufacturers to self-classify, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited jurisdiction over the contents - and there is no requirement to list levels of caffeine and other ingredients on the product packaging for manufacturers that self-classify their products as a dietary supplement, rather than food/beverage.
It should be noted that Monster drink contents will now include amounts, including caffeine levels, now that Monster has reportedly decided to change its classification from dietary supplement to food/beverage.
Meanwhile, a pediatric nutritionist whose newsletter on nutrition reaches 122,000 children across the country has been rebuked by Monster for including a section on energy drinks in her newsletter, and advocating that children not consume energy products.
Dr. Deborah Kennedy, PhD, of Guilford, noted in her publication that children have died from consuming energy drinks. “The back of the newsletter, which is directed at children, said never drink energy drinks,” Kennedy said. The nutritionist also took the industry to task for marketing to children.
It is unclear if Kennedy referenced Monster by name. Nonetheless, the nutritionist was sent a cease-and-desist letter from Monster, dated March 4 this year, accusing Dr. Kennedy of making “false and defamatory statements.” Kennedy maintains the website buildhealthykids.com and a related Facebook page. A recent posting to Facebook included a sting video of her four-year-old son attempting to purchase an energy drink at a gas station concession. While the energy drink purchased was a competing product and not that of Monster, the tot was allowed to make the purchase with no questions asked.
“There are other stimulants in these drinks. Caffeine is a drug. I think these drinks should be treated like alcohol and not be sold to minors,” Kennedy said, in comments published in the New Haven Register (3/21/13).
Monster Energy Drink injury, as is the case with energy drinks produced by other manufacturers, stems primarily from the levels of caffeine contained in the products. The 24-ounce cans of Monster product consumed by Fournier allegedly contained 480 milligrams of caffeine, each. An eight-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, in comparison, was shown to contain 23 milligrams.
We know that cola contains 23 milligrams because soda is regulated as a food, and therefore must list levels of ingredients on can labels. There is no such requirement for energy drinks classified as dietary supplements.
A 16-ounce can of Monster “Khaos” Energy Juice purchased by NBC4 News (10/24/12) listed a collection of ingredients, with caffeine being one of them, for a total of 2500 milligrams. However, the levels of caffeine were not broken out - there is no requirement for the manufacturer to do so as a dietary supplement - and thus, a consumer in that context has no clue as to how much caffeine is being consumed. Today, that can of Monster “Khaos” would break out the specific levels of caffeine in accordance with Monster’s move to a food/beverage classification. However, that would not have helped Fournier or her parents understand how much caffeine the teen was consuming, as Monster classified its products as a dietary supplement at the time.
What’s more, according to NBC4 News, the 16-ounce can of Monster Khaos was identified as “two servings.” Fournier allegedly consumed two, 24-ounce cans of Monster product in a 24-hour period before she died.
ABC News with Diane Sawyer (10/23/13) noted the FDA had received reports of five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack associated with consumption of Monster products.
The Press Enterprise reports that the New York attorney general is investigating Monster drink contents and marketing practices. It has been reported the city of San Francisco also launched an investigation into Monster’s sales and marketing practices. Monster, based in Corona, in turn filed a lawsuit against the city’s attorney general, accusing Dennis Herrera of unfairly singling out Monster Beverage Corp. and overstepping his authority.
Earlier this month, the City of San Francisco countered with a lawsuit filed in state court against Monster Beverage Corp. alleging the firm markets to children as young as six years of age, allegedly a violation of California Labor law. Part of the allegation stems from alleged depictions of minors portrayed in the firm’s “Monster Army” social networking sites, allegedly holding Monster products. While this reporter could find no evidence of that from a quick perusal of the Monster Army Facebook page, we did find a collage of photos posted February 13. One boy, while not holding a Monster drink, is obviously a minor.
As always, all allegations are just that until proven in a court of law.
READ MORE MONSTER ENERGY DRINK INJURY LEGAL NEWS
Outside an outright ban, discontinuing the capacity for an energy drink manufacturer to self-classify and requiring all energy drinks to hold a food/beverage classification would involve the FDA in a more direct regulatory relationship.
In the meantime, Monster drink contents, and that of competing energy drinks, continue to be a concern for parents.