Three Democratic lawmakers today asked more than a dozen energy drink companies to explain their rationale for marketing their energy drinks and to provide data about their ingredients and claims in marketing campaigns.
These letters, sent to companies including Red Bull, Pepsi Co and Monster, follow previous letters sent by the lawmakers to the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and continue their investigations into the safety, ingredient disclosure, and marketing of energy drink products.
The letters, which can all be found here were sent by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
"There is very clearly a lack of understanding about the health effects of energy drinks and their ingredients especially on children and adolescents," said Blumenthal. "Energy drink makers are mistaken if they believe they have escaped regulatory oversight to safeguard consumer health."
"Energy drink companies need to be clear with consumers about what they think their product is, what it contains, and what it can do," said Markey. "The broad claims made by these products and their blurred classification in the marketplace make it difficult for consumers, particularly young consumers, from making informed decisions about their consumption."
The energy drink industry has come under increasing scrutiny after a recent FDA release of several reports of deaths and injuries in which the drinks were mentioned and among new data showing a rise in emergency room visits for complications related to caffeinated energy drinks. For example, according to a new survey of hospitals released last week, from 2007 to 2011 emergency room visits related to the consumption of this class of products doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 visits.
"As new products and new patterns of energy drink use are emerging, we are working closely with the FDA to strengthen our understanding of the potential health impact of these products. Energy drink companies can partner in our effort by being forthcoming about the ingredients in their products and the processes they use to determine those ingredients are safe," said Durbin.
In the letters, the three lawmakers ask energy drink companies to answer whether they believe their products are conventional food products or dietary supplements. As the letter notes, while the FDA has the authority to regulate both conventional foods and dietary supplements, the requirements for ingredients, manufacturing processes, reporting of adverse events, and labeling differ depending on whether the product is marketed as a beverage or as a supplement.
The letters also ask for ingredients and amounts of stimulants like caffeine and guarana, and for studies that back up health or other claims made in the marketing of the products.