Although no product recall has been issued, concern continues to mount over the safety of caffeine-loaded “energy drinks,” which have been implicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as possible contributing causes in 18 deaths, The Boston Globe says in a Nov. 26 editorial.
The editorial asks that the FDA regulate these drinks, including 5-Hour Energy and Monster Energy, which are marketed to teenagers and might not be good for what the Globe calls “growing bodies.” Sales of such drinks were $9 billion last year and are projected to double next year, the Globe notes.
Daniel Tepfer writes for the Norwalk Citizen that stores in that area of Connecticut say 5-Hour Energy drink is a “brisk seller.” He quotes the owner of a Bridgeport, CT, variety store as saying, “If the stuff was really dangerous, the government would make us take it off our shelves and they haven’t.” The owner of Milford, CT, news and lotto store told Tepfer that he sells three or four of the drinks a day, mostly to young men.
The Globe writes:
In many cases, consumers have no idea how much caffeine they’re guzzling because more than half of the 27 top-selling brands tested by Consumer Reports either do not list the amount of caffeine or contain much more than listed. While a 16-ounce Starbucks coffee contains 330 milligrams of caffeine, Consumer Reports found 242 milligrams in just 1.9 ounces of 5-hour Energy, and 229 milligrams in just 2.5 ounces of Rockstar Energy Shot.
The Globe goes on to say that last year, the federal Drug Abuse Warning Network called energy drinks “a rising public health problem” because people often drink them in combination with alcohol, drugs, and driving. And the problem is not limited to teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that nearly half of all service members deployed in Afghanistan consume energy drinks; and 14% of those people have three or more per day, the Globe writes.
Andrea Valenti, clinical nutrition manager of Bridgeport (CT) Hospital, told Tepfer that 5-Hour Energy Drink is especially dangerous when someone drinks it with alcohol: “Because it is a stimulant and because caffeine keeps you alert and stimulated, you can drink more alcohol than you would normally without feeling the effects,” she said.
Contrary to what energy drinks are marketed as doing, they can have the effect of causing people — including service members on guard duty — to fall asleep during the day, because drinking three or more per day can disrupt sleep, leaving the person exhausted, the Globe reports the CDC as saying. “”Based on that report, energy drinks are not just a public health issue, but also one of national security,” the Globe editorial says. It urges the FDA to require that all energy drinks specify on their labels how much caffeine they contain, and ask companies to stop marketing the drinks to teens.
In a Nov. 16 statement, the FDA said it continues to investigate reports of illness, injury, or death of people who used products marketed as “energy drinks” or “energy shots.” The FDA cautions consumers that energy drinks or shots are not alternatives to rest or sleep and that while such products can make a person feel more awake or alert, the drinks can also impair a person’s judgment and reaction time.