Democratic senators Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal and House of Representatives member Ed Markey sent 14 letters to different brands yesterday, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues its investigation into energy drink health risks.
“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 in an accompanying statement on his website. The senators are demanding replies by February 1 2013.
Markey added: “The broad claims made by these products and their blurred classification in the marketplace make it difficult for consumers, particularly young consumers, to make informed decisions about their consumption.”
Rockstar, Red Bull, Nos Energy Coca-Cola
The letters were sent to 5-Hour Energy, Amp Energy,Clesius,ArizonaEnergy, Clif Shot Energy, Full Throttle Fuze, Jamba, Monster Energy, Nos Energy Coca-Cola, Sambazon, Rockstar, Red Bull, Target Archer Farms, Venom Dr. Pepper.
The senators ask these energy drink companies to state whether they believed their products were conventional food products or dietary supplements: you can read the letter to Red Bull here.
While the FDA has the authority to regulate both categories, the requirement for ingredients, manufacturing processes, reporting of adverse events and labelling differ between the two.
“Although the term ‘energy drink’ is not defined by the FDA, it generally represents a class of products in liquid form that typically contains high levels of caffeine,” the senators explain in the Red Bull letter.
But manufacturers currently have discretion to decide whether an energy drink will be marketed as a food product or a dietary supplement, they add.
The politicians also request that the brands release ingredient information on amounts of stimulants such as caffeine and guarana used, as well as studies that back up health and marketing claims.
Stimulant content, advertising claims
For instance, the amount of caffeine used in milligrams, recommended serving size and caffeine present in one serving, whether the caffeine contribution of guarana was included and the presence of other stimulants.
In regard to advertising claims (health, qualified health, structure/function, nutrition content), the senators ask if the brands are able to supply study results, summaries and analyses to substantiate these claims. “If not, why not?” they bluntly state.
Sen. Durbin said that the three senators were working closely with the FDA to strengthen their understanding of the potential health impact of energy drinks, and also ask the companies whether they have performed studies on potential serious health consequences linked to their consumption.
“Energy drink companies can partner in our efforts by being forthcoming about the ingredients in their products and the processes they use to determine if those ingredients are safe,” Durbin added.
As of Saturday morning, neither Red Bull nor 5-Hour Energy had responded to requests for comment.