Red Bull must face down a lawsuit filed in New York today by the family of a man who died after drinking the beverage after a basketball game and claim extra stimulants in the drink killed him.
Avid Red Bull drinker Cory Terry (33) was a New York-based construction worker who was, the suit insists, a healthy and active non-smoker.
After consuming the product on November 8 2011, Terry became light-headed, collapsed and died, due to an idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, according to the suit.
Attorney Ilya Novofastovsky – who filed the claim on behalf of Terry’s family – contends that extra stimulants in Red Bull make the energy drink more dangerous that a cup of coffee and insists these make the energy drink more dangerous than the Austrian brand admits.
FDA waits on ‘cumulative effects’ science
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is assessing the effects of caffeinated drinks, but in November 2012 said it knew of no scientific evidence that ‘potential interactions and cumulative effects’ of multiple stimulants in energy drinks with caffeine raised health risks in young people.
But citing resource restraints that stop it from assessing the toxicity of a vast number of different ingredient combinations, the FDA caveated: “If we determine that any such combinations are of concern in our continuing review of ‘energy drinks’, we will consider regulatory action”.
Red Bull told BeverageDaily.com that it does not comment on legal matter, but sent us a statement taking the now common tack taken by energy drink makers to defend claims of dangerousness linked to caffeine.
Namely, striking a favorable comparison between the caffeine content of their energy drink and an average cup of coffee.
“An 8.4oz can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, about the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of home-brewed coffee,” a spokesperson said.
‘Health authorities conclude Red Bull is safe’
The suit mentions nine deaths worldwide linked to Red Bull – doubtless the company will dispute any causal link – and cites 21 reports from US medical professionals from 2004-2012 linking the drink with symptoms including fatigue, dizziness and chest pain.
But the Red Bull spokesperson insisted that the drink is available in 165+ countries “because health authorities across the world have concluded that Red Bull is safe to consume”.
More than 5bn cans were consumed last year, and about 35bn cans since Red Bull was created more than 25 years ago, they added.
On the issue of supposed danger linked to high caffeine content, Monster Energy CEO Rodney Sacks told analysts in January 2013: “Let me give you the facts. Monster energy drinks [16oz] generally contain approximately 10mg of caffeine/oz from all sources.
“By comparison, leading brands of coffee house brewed coffee, for example Starbucks, contain on average in excess of 20mg of caffeine/oz,” he added.