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Senate Focuses on Energy Drink Deaths

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Washington, DCThe US Senate has held a hearing into energy drink deaths and hospitalizations, questioning the makers of energy drinks, including Monster Energy drink, about the safety of their products. Although the companies stand behind their product, saying they put consumer safety first, concerns have been raised that the energy drinks are being marketed to children and teens, who could be more susceptible to adverse events from the increased caffeine levels.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, noted in a press release (7/31/13) that pediatricians have expressed concern about health problems children who ingest energy drinks could face, and further raised alarm about the marketing of energy drinks to children and teens.

The hearing, called “Energy Drinks: Exploring Concerns about Marketing to Youth,” follows a Congressional report that found multiple energy drink makers were marketing their drinks specifically to younger consumers. Rockefeller expressed concern that the drinks were being marketed to children and teens even as health experts voiced concern about use of the energy drinks.

“With doctors saying that energy drinks pose risks of heart arrhythmia, increased blood pressure and dehydration - particularly among young people - I want to explore whether companies are being responsible in the way they market energy drinks,” Rockefeller said in his written statement.

Among the witnesses expected to speak were a pediatrician, a marketing expert, a physician who helped implement a county ban on marketing energy drinks to youth, and representatives of energy drink companies. Of concern to regulators and health experts is a 2011 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which found more than a tenfold increase in emergency room visits linked to energy drinks from 2005 to 2009. Of those, more than half involved patients under the age of 25, with more than 10 percent between the ages of 12 and 17.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has reportedly spoken out to encourage a ban on marketing energy drinks to children and youth. According to American Medical News (2/18/13), a study published March 1, 2011, in Pediatrics, found that between 30 and 50 percent of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks, and 46 percent of caffeine overdoses reported in 2007 involved people younger than 19. The study’s authors noted that many ingredients in energy drinks are “understudied and not regulated.”

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