The Latest on Beverage Bans & Regulation

New York City loses extra-large-soda battle; CSPI fires new shot at energy drinks

Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

energy drink warning label

An example of an energy-drink warning label proposed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

NEW YORK & WASHINGTON -- As beverage makers and drinkers in New York breath a sigh of relief this week, energy-drink manufacturers may need to redesign their packaging as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers a request to mandate safety warnings on the beverages.

NY Ban Busted

In New York, the city lost its bid to impose a ban on extra-large sodas in a ruling by the state’s highest court, ending for now an effort by the city to revive a rule struck down after lawsuits by trade groups, according to a Bloomberg report.

New York’s Court of Appeals said in a 4-2 decision today that the city’s health board lacked authority to impose the ban, proposed by Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor, saying such policymaking is reserved for legislative bodies--in this case, the New York City Council, according to the report.

Bloomberg pushed for the portion cap on soft-drink sizes starting in 2012 as part of his administration’s focus on public health. Instead of bringing the proposal to a vote before the City Council, the administration sent it to the Board of Health, which granted unanimous approval in September 2012. It limited to 16 ounces the size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants,movie theaters, stadiums and arenas.

The American Beverage Association sued, saying the rule interfered with consumers’ ability to make their own choices.

The beverage association was forward-looking in its response to today's ruling. “With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on New Yorkers and families across the country,” the association said.

The ruling doesn't mean the issue is over, as it opens the door for the New York City Council to take up the matter. It was not know at presstime if the council intends to do that.

Targeting Energy Drinks

Meanwhile, a consumer-advocacy group on Wednesday asked the FDA to require warning labels on energy-drink containers notifying consumers of the risk of heart attack, convulsion and other adverse reactions to the beverages. As a further precaution, the group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), asked the agency to require manufacturers to lower caffeine levels in the drinks to 0.02%, or 71 milligrams per 12 ounces, the maximum amount the FDA considers safe in cola-style beverages.

The requests come as CSPI, which has been on the forefront of many energy-drink regulation requests, reviews documents obtained from the FDA showing that since late 2012, 17 previously unreported deaths have been linked to energy drinks. According to adverse event reports collected by the agency since 2004, a total of 34 deaths have now been linked to energy drinks, according to CSPI.

As CSPI acknowledges, the reports do not prove that energy drinks actually caused the deaths. Two years ago the FDA told Congress that it was investigating the reports that it had received, but it has not yet released a report to Congress or the public.

"As I see in my medical practice, energy drinks are clearly causing symptomatic arrhythmias," Dr. Stacy Fisher, director of complex heart diseases at University of Maryland School of Medicine, stated in a CSPI press release. "These new reports of deaths and other injuries raise the level of concern about the adverse effects of energy drinks."

In its request to the FDA, CSPI also asked the agency to require careful studies on the health effects of the various chemical and herbal ingredients (such as taurine, glucuronolactone, carnitine, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, milk thistle extract and guarana seed) used in energy drinks and their possible interactions with caffeine.

"How many deaths will it take to get the FDA to protect consumers from energy drinks, with their high levels of caffeine and untested herbal and chemical ingredients?" asked CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Since the first batch of adverse event reports became public, the death count has essentially doubled with dozens more injured. Yet the FDA is just standing by—no public warnings, no regulations, no testing required—nothing."

Energy-drink manufacturers had not responded to CSPI's latest request by presstime. However, Monster Beverage CEO Rodney Sacks has consistently stated that his drinks are safe and recently cited a report that a majority of teenagers ingest more caffeine through coffee, tea and other soft drinks than through energy drinks.

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