Washington, D.C., is a highly caffeinated city, but a group of Democratic senators on Wednesday requested 17 energy drink companies, including Red Bull and Monster, to stop marketing to children, who might not know the risks of heavy caffeine consumption.
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee, including Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., co-wrote letters to 17 energy drink companies asking them to take voluntary steps to prevent abuse of those products by children under the age of 18.
These guidelines include not promoting rapid or excessive energy drink consumption, not promoting consumption of the drinks with alcohol or other drugs, not selling or marketing to schools and not using social media for any of these purposes. A significant step requested the companies to label drinks to detail their caffeine contents and to report adverse events associated with consumption of energy drinks to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA often does not regulate energy drinks because many of the drinks are labeled as supplements and not sodas, giving those companies a loophole to avoid detailed labeling. “Energy drink makers have been urging customers to consume too much of their products too fast and too young,” Markey said in the same joint press release Wednesday. “We need to ensure that kids and parents are protected from the negative health impacts of these products and are not subject to deceptive marketing practices. I urge all energy drink makers to commit to these common sense and appropriate steps.”
In June, Rockefeller asked energy drink companies, including Monster, Rockstar and Red Bull, to explain whether they market to children and teens, and what marketing methods they use. “Across the board, makers of energy drinks say they do not market their products to children,” Durbin said in the press release Wednesday. “But we know that energy drinks are promoted through social media, and that samples are often distributed at places where teens hang out – like sports events, concerts, local parks, and SAT prep courses.
Energy drink companies have been accused in the past of cardiac deaths following consumption of their heavily caffeinated products. In June, the family of Alex Morris, 19, sued Monster in Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court, claiming that Morris died in July 2012 because he drank two 16-ounce cans of Monster energy drinks in 24 hours, and was a habitual drinker of that beverage. The Morris family accused the company of failing to notify customers of the risks of heavy caffeine consumption.
Markey, Durbin and Blumenthal released a report in April that shows inconsistencies in the labeling of energy drinks, marketing to teens using social media and event promotion, and high caffeine levels that would be deemed unsafe in soda by the FDA.