Food and Drug Administration probing energy drinks after deaths

Some people say the caffeine in that first cup of coffee gets their heart going. The Food and Drug Administration is worried that some peoples’ hearts get going too fast when they consume popular energy drinks, particularly a beverage called Monster. The deaths of five people have been linked to Monster, and the family of a 14 year-old girl who died after drinking two cans of the stuff has filed a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer.

Monster comes in a 24-ounce can and contains 240 milligrams of caffeine, seven times the amount found in a regular 12 ounce soft drink. The FDA knew back in 2004 that the supercharged beverages may be causing health problems, but what nudged the agency into action was the death of the California teenager. An autopsy found she died of an irregular heartbeat after drinking two 24-ounce Monsters in a 24 hour period. The medical examiner said she died of caffeine toxicity aggravated by a congenital blood vessel disease. Her parents sued, accusing Monster of failing to warn consumers about the risks associated with high caffeine doses.

Monster Beverage Corporation is based in California and describes the drink as a “killer energy brew,” an unfortunate marketing slogan in light of recent events. In addition to the five deaths reported to FDA, at least one non-fatal heart attack has been attributed to Monster. The can label warns against consumption by children and people who are sensitive to caffeine. The company claims it is “unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.”

Energy drinks are only a fraction of the soft drink market but their popularity is growing. As soda sales decline, energy beverages sales are increasing. The appeal, especially to the young, is the sweet taste and the concentrated, powerful “boost” consumers feel courtesy of the caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the heart to beat faster and puts the body into a “fight or flight” state. Too much cardiac stimulation can cause the heart to stop beating effectively, frequently leading to rapid death. The FDA says it is concerned and is investigating, but it’s too soon to tell for sure whether energy drinks are actually responsible for the five deaths, as has been claimed.

Source: The Washington Post, “FDA probes 5 reported deaths linked to Monster energy drinks,” Oct. 22, 2012