Energy Drink Brand Monster Tied to Five Deaths

Washington, D.C.—Incident reports released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have connected Monster Energy, a brand of drinks high in caffeine, with five deaths over a three year period. The reports were solicited via the Freedom of Information Act as part of a lawsuit against Monster Beverage Corporation by Wendy Crossland, according to The New York Times. The Maryland mother’s 14-year-old daughter died last December of a heart arrhythmia, which occurred after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster in two days.

The publicly-traded, Corona, California-based company, formerly known as Hansen Natural, saw its stock slide on this news. The lawsuit filed last week charges that Monster does not appropriately present consumers with risks associated with its energy drinks. The company responded by disclaiming the notion that the products are unsafe or in any way responsible for the deaths cited in the FDA reports, with a spokesperson stating that Monster is “unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.”

The incident reports go back to 2004 and include the five deaths as well as a nonfatal heart attack. Other less serious symptoms correlated but not proven to be caused by Monster include abdominal pain, vomiting, tremors and abnormal heart rate. FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in a statement, “As with any reports of a death or injury the agency receives, we take them very seriously and investigate diligently.”

Energy drinks have been in the headlines recently. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have taken FDA to task over the regulation of energy drinks, which are categorized as dietary supplements rather than food, and therefore are not subject to the 0.02% limit on caffeine that goes for soft drinks. Also, the attorney general of New York subpoenaed leading energy drink makers in July over the accuracy of energy drink marketing and advertising, including claims about health benefits and caffeine levels.

Published by WholeFoods Magazine Online (online 10/23/12)