The FDA has belatedly launched an investigation following several deaths of youngsters nationwide, allegedly from consuming Monster Energy Drinks. For years there have been studies, especially in Europe, warning energy beverages might pose potential health risks to kids.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Riverside County on October 17 after a 14-year-old girl died allegedly following the consumption of two 24-oz Monster beverages in a 24-hour period. The complaint accuses Monster of creating a defective produce and fraudulently failing to inform consumers of known risks of ingestion. One of the attorney’s websites states “energy drinks are consumed by 30-50% of children, adolescents and young adults.”
Mission Viejo City Hall has nevertheless continued to help promote the brand at the Kaleidoscope Center by refusing to enforce the MV Sign Code against the illegal monster-Monster banner. The sign stretches across long consecutive spans of windows facing Crown Valley and the I-5 Freeway. It is larger than individual merchant signs.
The ad is displayed by Howie’s Game Shack, a business which caters to the exact demographic allegedly threatened by these drinks. Howie’s receives revenue for the ad and lobbied strongly to the Council for the illegal sign. Trish Kelley and Frank Ury led the Council to implement a moratorium against enforcing the sign code against the Monster moniker. The “moratorium” has been in effect almost seven years.
At the outset this reporter specifically questioned Councilman Ury about the secondary issue regarding the Monster sign - health studies about energy drinks’ effect on young people. Ury ignored the warning, laughed at the issue, and asserted the City couldn’t regulate a legal product. But no one was asking the City to regulate a product, just to enforce the sign code.
Although there are 12 teaspoons of sugar, caffeine is the primary stimulant. Monster doesn’t disclose the amount of caffeine on its labels. A 16-oz. Monster packs 160 milligrams, compared to 71 in a non-diet soda, according to one source. Other reports say some energy drinks range up to 500 mg of caffeine. Last year the European Union required warnings on the front labels of energy drinks containing more than 150 milligrams of caffeine: Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found energy drinks were associated with risky behaviors such as sex, smoking, marijuana and illicit drug use. Medicine Plus says 5,448 caffeine overdoses occurred in 2007, half of those ages 19 and under. The number rose tenfold from 2005 to 2007. Energy drinks avoid FDA scrutiny when they fall into an unregulated area of nutritional supplements. Two U.S. Senators are pushing for regulation of the drinks.
Monster stock was down 14% on Monday and another 11% by noon on Tuesday.