Ingredients and safety in question - Number of ER vistis doubled
The Food and Drug Administration has begun examining the safety of energy drinks after reports of deaths and injuries potentially associated with the products.
The number of annual emergency room visits involving the drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011, according to a federal report released last week. As the Food and Drug Administration launches an investigation into the 14 energy drink companies, three Democratic lawmakers are calling for an investigation into marketing claims and ingredients connected with the company.
The lawmakers want to see any studies and data backing up the claims made in the marketing and advertising their products. The FDA is interested to find out if the products could be harmful to young people, especially those with cardiac conditions.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have been looking into the drinks’ ingredients and safety for months. Last month, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg met with the lawmakers about the possible health effects of the drinks.
The FDA released information documenting several deaths and injuries in which consumption of energy drinks was mentioned. In addition, a survey of hospitals showed that the number of emergency visits related to the consumption of caffeinated energy drinks doubled from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011.
“There is very clearly a lack of understanding about the health effects of energy drinks and their ingredients, especially on children and adolescents,” Sen. Blumenthal said in a statement. “Energy drink makers are mistaken if they believe they have escaped regulatory oversight to safeguard consumer health.”
The lawmakers asked each of the 14 companies whether they consider their drinks to be supplements, conventional beverages, or neither, and how they made that determination. Currently, manufacturers can decide whether an energy drink is marketed as a conventional beverage or as a dietary supplement. While the FDA regulates products in both categories, the requirements for ingredients, labeling and reporting of adverse events are different.
“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,” Rep. Markey said in a statement.
In their letters to the companies, the lawmakers also asked whether the drinks are marketed to children or teenagers, and requested studies that back up the claims made in advertising or marketing.
They also asked if the companies had performed studies to determine if the products are safe for children, and to examine the potential for serious health consequences.
In addition, they asked for nutrition information, including the amount of caffeine in an entire package of a product, and for other stimulant ingredients such as guarana, which is a stimulant whose seeds contain about twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee beans.
The companies contacted include Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Rockstar, Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola Co. The lawmakers asked for a response by Feb. 1.
Congress has previously asked the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA to investigate the drinks’ safety, ingredient disclosure and marketing. Last year, Sen. Durbin offered an amendment to an FDA user fee bill that would require dietary supplement manufacturers to register and share product information with the agency, but it was rejected.