Senators tilt at Red Bull as FDA hints at energy action

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Energy drinks Caffeine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told US Senators Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal that is reviewing the safety of energy drinks and may take regulatory action if it finds a health risk.

Since April both Senators have called on the FDA to regulate energy drinks and investigate the safety of ingredients with stimulant properties in combination with caffeine, particularly in relation to their effects on young consumers.

FDA ‘can and should’ act

Durbin and Blumenthal welcomed the FDA’s action in a joint statement, but said that more needed to be done and quickly:

“For instance, the FDA can and should take action now to regulate energy drinks that are marketed as beverages, like Red Bull which has more than the standard of 71mg of caffeine per 12oz that beverages like Coke and Pepsi are held to,”​ the politicians state.

“I will be calling [FDA] Commissioner [Margaret] Hamburg for a meeting as soon as possible to review the FDA’s plan,”​ and to discuss further steps the agency is taking to ensure product safety, they add.

In its letter to the Senators​, the FDA states that energy drinks are new products that raise safety concerns and warrant investigation, and said it was “working to strengthen our understanding of the nature of ‘energy drinks’ and casual risks to health”.

Although it has not outlined the specifics of its review, the FDA said it would examine adverse event reports and consult with outside experts to better understand risks posed by energy drinks, additives and high youth levels of caffeine consumption.

The FDA said it would consider regulatory action if its review found safety concerns.

Monster, 5-Hour Energy revelations

The agency’s response to Senators Durbin and Blumenthal follows a September letter in which they again asked the agency to respond to specific concerns regarding the interaction of ingredients in energy drinks and the effects of caffeine therein on children and adolescents.

This followed an initial letter in April; in a further letter in October (following the FDA’s announcement that it was investigating five deaths linked to drinking Monster energy drinks) the politicians challenged the agency further.

They called on the FDA to remedy “weaknesses and loopholes in current law that are exploited by energy drink manufacturers in order to avoid oversight”.

Durbin and Blumenthal also called on the FDA to probe interaction between caffeine and energy drink stimulants in energy drinks and assess health risks associated with caffeine consumption by children and adolescents.

The Senators’ latest letter, sent in November, sees them call for an urgent meeting with Hamburg to discuss steps the FDA is taking to ensure energy drink safety, following the agency’s revelation that it had received 13 fatality reports following consumption of 5-Hour Energy.

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