The recent influx of potentially dangerous transgressions committed within the dietary supplement industry have caused regulatory officials to exercise extreme caution. Accordingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently acknowledged that they intend to crack-down on those companies that are lacing their products with undisclosed pharmaceutical ingredients. Amidst this growing concern, however, are energy drink manufacturers that may be guilty of breaking similar laws. Following a recent subpoena issued by the New York attorney general, three prominent energy drink manufacturers are being investigated to determine whether or not they have been misleading consumers about how much caffeine their products contain and the health risks they can potentially pose.
Introduced in Europe, energy drinks were originally intended to serve as an alternative to drinking coffee. However, the introduction of Red Bull in 1997 stimulated the once small industry into a $10 billion revolution. Growth of the current worldwide market for energy drinks is estimated at 17.8%. As a result, energy drinks have surged in popularity, especially among high school and college students. Studies have shown almost 30 percent of college students consume energy drinks regularly.
However, regulatory officials have recently begun to caution consumers of the growing concern regarding energy drink ingredients and their potential for adverse health risks. In the latest attempt to determine the safety of energy drinks, the New York attorney general has subpoenaed three popular energy drink manufacturers as part of an investigation into whether the companies are misleading consumers about how much caffeine the drinks contain and the health risks they could pose.
Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena to Monster Beverage, PepsiCo, and Living Essentials while simultaneously initiating an investigation that would determine whether or not these companies were promoting their products as dietary supplements. The drinks in question are Monster Energy Drinks, AMP, and 5-Hour Energy. State authorities are also concerned about whether all of the ingredients that go into the beverages are properly disclosed, according to an official briefed on the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Furthermore, regulatory officials are also seeking to determine whether or not additives contain additional caffeine that is not disclosed on the product labels. All three companies involved in the investigation have declined to discuss the current subpoenas.
Contradictory to what the investigation hopes to find, is a statement issued by the American Beverage Association (ABA) that acknowledges that both ingredients and labels of energy drinks are regulated by the FDA. Subsequently, the ABA went on to say that caffeine levels from additives were fully disclosed.
However the current investigation appears to be a precautionary measure. Many health advocates are concerned about the use of energy drinks among adolescents, particularly when they are consumed alongside alcohol, said Amelia M. Arria, an epidemiologist who serves as director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
“A person who co-ingests an energy drink and alcohol doesn’t understand how drunk they are,” Ms. Arria said. “Caffeine keeps you awake so you can keep drinking, and high levels of caffeine can mask intoxication.”
In addition to complications associated with alcohol, increased caffein levels may coincide with the development of severe complications. According to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “energy drinks contain substances not found in sports drinks that act as stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana and taurine. Caffeine – by far the most popular stimulant – has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurological and cardiovascular systems.”
A report issued by the Drug Abuse Warning Network in November 2011 acknowledged a tenfold increase in the rate of emergency room visits associated with the consumption of energy drinks between 2005 and 2008. According to the report, “Consumption of energy drinks is a rising public health problem because medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake. A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful effects, particularly for children, adolescents and young adults.”
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