Monday, May 6, 2013

San Francisco sues Monster for marketing energy drink to kids

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images


NEW YORKA fight between Monster Beverage and San Francisco's city attorney is intensifying. The city attorney is filing a lawsuit against Monster Beverage Corp, the maker of Monster Energy Drinks, accusing the company of marketing to young children.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Monday that Monster markets it highly caffeinated drinks to children as young as 6 years old, despite scientific findings that such products can cause health problems including severe cardiac events.

The lawsuit comes after Monster last week sued Herrera over his demands that it reduce the caffeine levels in its drinks and stop marketing to minors.

On Monday, Herrera noted that his office had been working with Monster in "good faith to negotiate voluntary changes" when the company abruptly filed its lawsuit.

"Our lawsuit is not a reaction to their lawsuit," Herrera said in an interview. "We were proceeding on this path in the event that we would be unable to come to a resolution."

Monster said in a statement Monday that that the issues raised by Herrera are matters that are entrusted to the regulatory authority of the FDA. It said Herrera's demands on Monster are pre-empted by federal law

FDA investigating alleged Monster Energy drink related deaths

The lawsuits reflect a breakdown in talks that started in October, when Herrera's office first began investigating energy drinks. The industry, which includes Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy shots and PepsiCo's Amp, had been enjoying enormous growth for years, but recently has come under intensifying scrutiny.

New York's attorney general has subpoenaed energy drink makers including Monster about how the drinks are made and marketed, and Democratic Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have repeatedly called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look into the safety of the drinks.

Monster has been in the spotlight since October 2012, when the parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier of Hagerstown, Md. sued the company after their daughter went into cardiac arrest after drinking two of popular energy drinks in 24 hours.

The FDA said in Oct. 2012 it was investigating five deaths and one heart attack linked to Monster Energy Drinks dating back to 2004. One can contains about 240 milligrams of caffeine.
The company denied its drink's role in the girl's death in March, with company lawyer Daniel Callahan telling the Associated Press at the time that physicians hired to review the girl's case determined she died from natural causes, brought on by pre-existing heart conditions.
The FDA has also been reviewing adverse events linked to 5-hour-Energy drinks.
Although some coffees may contain more caffeine than Monster's energy drinks, Herrera has noted that coffee is typically served hot and consumed more slowly than energy drinks. In his lawsuit citing a violation of California law, he noted that Monster's website uses children as young as six years old to promote its brand.

Pediatricians wrote this February in Pediatrics in Review that consuming energy drinks can cause insomnia, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety and obesity. The review noted that mixing these drinks with alcohol can be especially risky to one's health.

The review's authors said marketing to adolescents and young adults can lead more young people to think mixing an energy drink with alcohol is okay, but the authors noted drinking just one caffeinated energy drink mixed with alcohol can be the same as drinking a bottle of wine and several cups of coffee.

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