Monster Energy Offers Caffeine Math in Response to Report
Already under the microscope in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a teen who died after drinking two cans of its energy drink, Monster Beverage Corporation is taking a report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) personally.
DAWN Sounds the Alarm
The DAWN report, issued Jan. 10 and titled “Update on Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks: A Continuing Public Health Concern,” says that “medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake.” DAWN is a public health surveillance system run by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The total amount of caffeine in a can or bottle of an energy drink varies from about 80 to more than 500 milligrams (mg), compared with about 100 mg in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce cola,” according to the DAWN report.
The number of emergency department (ED) visits involving energy drinks doubled from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011, says DAWN. “The occurrence of energy drink-related ED visits among adolescents and young adults shows that these vulnerable populations experience negative health events after consuming energy drinks.”
SAMHSA got interested in energy drinks in November after news reports about them began surfacing, an agency spokesperson tells Lawyers.com. The new report was developed in response to an FDA request for updated information.
But asked whether the agency has a position on the drinks’ dangerousness, the spokesperson was cautious. “SAMHSA has no position on energy drinks,” he says. “This report validates claims that energy drinks can be dangerous when used alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol.”
Monster took new offense at the DAWN report, issuing a press release on Jan. 18 that specifically challenged the agency on its conclusions.
“The recent DAWN report on so-called energy drink-related emergency department visits is highly misleading and does not support any conclusion that energy drinks are unsafe for consumers,” says Monster.
In addition to complaining that the report doesn’t prove a medical connection between consumption of energy drinks and emergency room visits, Monster challenges DAWN on its caffeine math. No one drinks 5 ounce-cups of coffee, it basically says, adding that a medium coffee has about 320 milligrams of caffeine.
“In contrast, Monster energy products generally contain approximately 10 mg of caffeine per ounce from all sources. A 16-ounce can of Monster Energy therefore contains roughly half the caffeine of a 16-ounce cup of coffeehouse-brewed coffee.”
What’s in a Label?
While Fournier’s parents’ lawsuit against Monster does say the drinks have “massive amounts of caffeine,” it actually accuses the company of combining ingredients to produce a dangerous product. It also says the company has avoided meaningful labels and regulation by the FDA by classifying the drinks as “dietary supplements” and not “food.”
Asked whether Monster labels its drinks with caffeine content, and what exactly that content is, a spokesperson for the company sent Lawyers.com a copy of the label for its 16-ounce can.
The label lists caffeine in the “Ingredients” list and also lists it along with other substances like guarana in its “Energy Blend” on the nutrition facts chart. There are 2,500 milligrams of “Energy Blend” in 8 ounces of the drink, which means the can contains 5,000 milligrams of the blend.
Asked about the numbers, the Monster spokesperson pointed to another press release that quotes an FDA letter from November 2012 that says the agency had not at that point identified any problems with the safety of energy drinks’ ingredient combinations.
Asked how Monster might compare to coffee, the SAMHSA spokesperson points to the report’s statement that energy drinks have high amounts of caffeine as well as “other additives” including “vitamins, taurine, herbal supplements, creatine, sugars, and guarana, a plant product containing concentrated caffeine.”
“Of course,” adds the spokesperson, “coffee has caffeine.”