Monster Beverage Corp.'s energy drinks have been cited in the deaths of five people -- including a 14-year-old girl -- in the last year, according to incident reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.
The reports said the victims consumed Monster drinks prior to their deaths, Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, told Businessweek. The FDA said the voluntarily reported incidents are under investigation. Shares of Corona, Calif.-based Monster plummeted to a four-year low after the reports surfaced.
Parents in Maryland who sued Monster last week, claiming the drinks led to caffeine toxicity that killed their 14-year-old daughter, are using the FDA reports to bolster their lawsuit. Their lawyer released the reports to the media. The girl, Anais Fournier, had consumed two Monster drinks, according to a copy of the complaint filed Oct. 17 in state court in Riverside, Calif. The cause of the Dec. 23, 2011, death was "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity," according to the lawsuit, which cites a state autopsy report.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois is asking the FDA to consider caffeine limits on energy drinks after emergency room visits involving such products jumped tenfold from 2005 through 2009.
The five death reports, as well as a sixth in 2009, were among 37 adverse reaction reports since 2004 that mentioned Monster drinks, according to a log of incidents that doctors, companies and the public filed with the FDA. The agency has said it's working on guidelines to ensure energy drinks are safe.
Monster, the largest U.S. energy drink maker, sold about $1.6 billion worth of such drinks last year, according to Businessweek. Its energy drink sales have tripled since 2006.
"Over the past 16 years Monster has sold more than 8 billion energy drinks, which have been safely consumed worldwide," the company said in an emailed statement to Businessweek. "Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier. Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks."
However, emergency room visits involving energy drinks increased to 13,114 in 2009, with about half of those trips made by patients 18 to 25 years old and also involving drugs or alcohol (good times), according to a November report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Some of the life-threatening illnesses were characterized by heart attacks, chest pain and vomiting.
Monster and competitors such as Red Bull aren't bound by the FDA guidelines for caffeine in sodas, because energy drinks are often sold as "dietary supplements." Monster doesn't list the amount of caffeine in its formula, only that the ingredient along with the plant extract guarana and the amino acid taurine are in the drink.
Soda typically is allowed to have as much as 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces for the FDA to consider it safe. Caffeine in energy drinks often ranges from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams per serving, the FDA said. In comparison, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains anywhere between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine. A 12 oz. can of Coke contains 35 milligrams, and an 8.3-ounce can of Red Bull has 76 milligrams.
Just give us the number so we can make an informed choice about whether to drink your crap, Monster.
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