Chicago Considers Age Restriction on Energy Drinks

Manufacturers reject links to deaths, heart attacks

Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

George Cardenas

CHICAGO -- "Claims" is all they are for now, but the first consequence stemming from reports of drinking energy drinks and shots resulting in death took the form of a proposed age limit for purchasing such products.

Chicago City Alderman George Cardenas is pushing to ban the sale of energy drinks in Chicago to anyone under the age of 21. Cardenas said he wants to summon health experts to testify before a committee on a series of recent deaths around the nation of young people who drank energy drinks, according to a report in The Chicago Sun-Times.

Why propose a ban before the experts weigh in?

"You start with that premise because it brings more attention to the problem. It's a more serious conversation," he told the newspaper. "If we just hold hearings, people won't take it seriously."

Cardenas' effort comes in the wake of reports that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has received multiple reports of deaths related to drinking energy beverages and supplements, including Monster Energy drink and 5-Hour Energy shots.

Since 2009, energy shots have been mentioned in about 90 filings with the FDA, including more than 30 that involved serious or life-threatening injuries such as heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion, a summary of FDA records reviewed by The New York Times showed.

Meanwhile, the popular energy drink was connected to five deaths and a heart attack, according to FDA records, over the past four years.

Makers of energy drinks and shots, along with Wall Street analysts, have downplayed the reports, citing the sales of billions of units over the past three decades and the overall safety of their products.

"Tens of billions of energy drinks have been sold and safely consumed worldwide for approximately 25 years, including more than 8 billion cans of Monster Energy that have been sold and safely consumed in the United States and around the world since 2002," Corona, Calif.-based Monster Beverages Corp. said in a statement. The company monitors consumer communications it receives, is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its products and has never before been the subject of any lawsuit of this nature."

Similarly, 5-Hour Energy parent Living Essentials LLC said it is "unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy."

"Living Essentials LLC, distributor of 5-Hour Energy, takes reports of any potential adverse event tied to our products very seriously," said spokesperson Elaine Lutz. "We fully comply with all of our reporting requirements. Living Essentials LLC is strictly regulated by and complies with DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) as regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the FDA's current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations. ... It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according the agency itself, is not construed by FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported, or that any person included in the report caused or contributed to the event."

In Chicago, Cardenas acknowledged the reports are unproven, but is anxious to get the wheels in motion to age-restrict the products.

"If the experts say the ingredients are such that young people are more susceptible to these types of stimulants and their bodies can't handle it, we have to act on that," he told the newspaper. "We don't want to have a situation where children are at risk."

Steve Holtz, CSP/Winsight By Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News
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