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After reported deaths, Senator seeks energy drink investigation

| November 19, 2012

Standing against a poster of a product well-known to truckers and four-wheelers, Sen. Dick Durbin appeared on the Senate floor Nov. 15 to again request the Food and Drug Administration further investigate potential health risks of energy drinks in response to news last week that energy drinks have accounted for deaths and other serious medical problems more than a dozen times in recent years.

Flanked by an image of Monster Energy, the Illinois Democrat noted an FDA report of 18 fatalities following consumption of 5-Hour Energy or Monster Energy. After Thanksgiving, Durbin and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) plan to meet with Commissioner Margaret Hamburg over what the administration considers dietary supplements.

Dietary supplements and energy drinks are commonly available in many retail stores. Truck stop chains, including Travel Centers of America, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and Ambest Truck Stop & Service Centers did not provide a response when asked if the companies were considering discontinuing the selling of these products.

Durbin referenced a FDA Oct. 23 roundup of nearly nine years of voluntary and mandatory reports, which included 13 fatalities following consumption of 5-Hour Energy and five after drinking Monster Energy. The report included incidents involving Rockstar Energy Drink, although no fatalities occurred with this beverage.

The administration cautions it has not concluded these products caused any adverse event noted.  Report data indicates information only as reported and may not include other contributing factors such as heart disease or what medications were consumed. Additionally, there may be more than one report of the same event, such as from both the treating physician and patient.

The FDA further cautioned that the reports may not include sufficient contact information to allow follow-up or the participants may elect to not participate in further investigation.

In addition to the deaths listed, adverse events mentioned ranged from anaphylactic shock and renal failure to fatigue or nausea.

Monster Energy issued a statement that it stood by the safety of its drink.

Living Essentials, distributor of 5-Hour Energy, is unaware its product caused any deaths, according to company spokeswoman Elaine Lutz.  She described 5-Hour Energy as a “compact-sized energy shot intended for busy adults; it is not an energy drink, nor marketed as a beverage.”

Durbin and Blumenthal repeatedly have raised questions over the interaction of ingredients in energy drinks and the effect that the caffeine in energy drinks has on children and adolescents.

A year ago, the Mayo Clinic reported 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is generally not harmful to healthy adults, but more can lead to unpleasant side effects such as insomnia or stomach upsets.

Mayo stated a 2-ounce container of 5-Hour Energy has 207 milligrams of caffeine, while an 8-ounce can of Monster contains 80 milligrams.  A 16-ounce container of McDonalds or Starbucks Pike Place coffee each has 100 milligrams of caffeine, the clinic added.

Durbin was a proponent of the FDA’s 2004 ban on the sale of dietary supplement containing ephedra.  Ephedra was usually marketed as dietary aid or energy enhancer and often was available at truck stop checkout counters under labels such as Truckers Luv It and Black Beauty,

The senator also has introduced legislation to require manufacturers of other dietary supplements to ensure these products are safe before they are sold.

  • Dennis M

    As with anything if your an adult use it in moderation. If you drink to much coffee it’s bad for you too. When are we going to be responsible and be adults and stop the government(big brother)from being our protector on everything!!!! There should not be seat belt or helmet laws either because if your responsible you will wear a belt and a helmet if your on a motorcycle and have insurance too. As I do. When will we as American’s start seeing the word RESPONSIBILITY as a four letter word and start being responsible AMERICAN’S and proud of it and get BIG GOVERNMENT(big brother)out of our life’s!!!

  • Mr Tod

    As long as The country is run by people that want to justify their political jobs. This type of butting into our lives will continue. As long as the people of this country keep voting in these types of political far left wack jobs. this type of big brother government will continue ! we get the Gov we deserve. We the people voted them in. and we can vote them out. BUT we do not. So We deserve this. Sad but true.

  • Joe Lange

    I think it’s a red bull conspiracy, they are just trying to
    take out the only real competitor they have. Thus controlling the market.

  • Chris Lee

    Best I can figure, that would be about one death for every 27 million bottles of 5 hour energy sold. I’m not saying that makes it okay but, over the last 30 years, an average of 54 fatalities per year are reported from lightning strikes – or about 25 times more likely than dieing from drinking a 5 hour energy. And of course as Dennis said, in moderation. There doesn’t seem to be any word on if these people had one, two or five of these energy shots.

  • Working Man

    Health factors of the deceased individuals really have to be considered. Ephadra was blamed in the media when certain atheletes died on the practice or playing field just because Hydroxycut was found in their locker at the time. Later (and much quieter) it was discovered that health and other factors were to blame. Autopsy results disovered low to average levels of toxins that comonly result as byproducts from ephadra use in the deceased. It will be the same here with energy drinks. The talking heads and news hungry politicians will boast loudly as they point their fingers before any real research is done or autopsy lab results considered. Then you may find a small article in the back of the news saying i was all mstake. I wonder if the senator has considered th health effects of the scotch, brandy and cigars he has in his office back in washington.

  • jim

    monster energy ,rock star, 5 hour , and many other energy drinks are owned by the same company monster energy drinks east of the Mississippi are made right here in moorsville North carolina by caralina byproducts formany know as carolina bear & Beverage strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.