FDA’s investigation into safety of caffeine for children, adolescents wins praise from Herrera

Federal regulators’ announcement comes days after Monster Energy sued to halt Herrera’s investigation into marketing of potentially unsafe products to children

SAN FRANCISCO (May 3, 2013) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier today announced that it has launched a formal investigation into the safety of added caffeine in food products — noting “particularly its effects on children and adolescents” — in response to an unfortunate growing trend in which beverage and food manufacturers are adding caffeine to their products.

The announcement by federal regulators comes just four days after Monster Beverage Corporation (NASDAQ: MNST) filed a virtually unprecedented lawsuit against San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to halt his office’s investigation into possible legal violations stemming from Monster Energy’s marketing to children as young as 6 years of age. Monster is the nation’s largest manufacturer of highly caffeinated energy drinks.

The FDA’s investigation into the safety of caffeine added in food and beverage products marketed to children and adolescents won high praise from Herrera.

“I applaud the FDA for its leadership in recognizing the need to address the health risks posed by highly caffeinated energy drinks and similar products, particularly for young people,” said Herrera. “I was proud to join with 18 nationally-recognized scientists and public health experts in March to urge the FDA to take action, and I am grateful to them for launching an investigation that acknowledges how aggressively energy drinks are being marketed to youth.”

In announcing the federal investigation this morning, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor noted that the “proliferation of these products in the marketplace is very disturbing to us.”

“Our concern is about caffeine appearing in a range of new products, including ones that may be attractive and readily available to children and adolescents, without careful consideration of their cumulative impact,” said Taylor. “[W]e hope this can be a turning point for all to prevent the irresponsible addition of caffeine to food and beverages. Together, we should be immediately looking at what voluntary restraint can be used by industry as FDA gets the right regulatory boundaries and conditions in place.”

On March 19, Herrera joined 18 scientists and public health professionals in urging the FDA to take prompt action to protect children and adolescents from the dangers of highly caffeinated energy drinks. In separate letters to the FDA, Herrera and scientific experts cited law requiring that food additives like caffeine be “Generally Recognized As Safe,” or GRAS, for their intended use based on a consensus of scientific opinion. Contradicting manufacturers’ safety claims, the scientists’ letter finds that the caffeine levels in popular energy drinks such as Monster Energy do not meet the GRAS standard required by law because they pose serious risks to public health, especially for young people to whom the products are marketed.

The scientists’ letter to the FDA cited findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, which concluded that “rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.” The pediatricians also agreed that energy drinks “are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.”

Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit launched an investigation into business and marketing practices of the Corona, Calif.-based Monster Beverage Corporation last October in light of evidence that despite mounting scientific consensus about health risks to young people, Monster has continued marketing practices aimed at children and youth, including their promotion of Monster Energy drinks on schools and at school-sponsored sporting events. Evidence of actionable marketing tactics uncovered in Herrera’s investigation include a “Monster Army” social networking community with children as young as 6 years of age, and a “Monster Energy Drink Player of the Game” series, which photographs high school athletes with two four-packs — fully 128 ounces — of highly-caffeinated Monster products.

The pending federal lawsuit is: Monster Beverage Corporation v. Dennis Herrera, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Eastern Division, CV-13-00786, filed April 29, 2013. The lawsuit and all supporting documentation in the case are available on the San Francisco City Attorney’s website at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org.

The FDA’s announcement is available at: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm350570.htm

Related Documents:

PDF icon PDF of the FDA Caffeine Investigation response statement presskit (May 3, 2013)