A California man has filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of Monster energy drinks, alleging they advertise the highly caffeinated beverage as though it were a conventional drink, despite classifying it as a dietary supplement to dodge FDA regulations.
The Monster Energy Drink class action lawsuit (PDF) was filed by Alec Fisher on December 12, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The complaint names Monster Beverage Corporation and Monster Energy Company as defendants, seeking class action status to represent all individuals who have purchased the companies’ energy drinks.
Dietary Supplement Label Helps Monster Dodge FDA Rules
Monster energy drinks are classified as a dietary supplement, which allows the manufacturer to avoid FDA regulation. The designation also allows the manufacturer to sell the energy drink without listing the ingredients or conforming to other food safety regulations.
According to the lawsuit, Monster energy drinks are promoted as though they are a standard soft-drink or beverage, which leads to the assumption by consumers that there is federal oversight into the manufacture and composition. Because of the dietary supplement designation, the FDA has not required testing for the highly caffeinated energy drink to establish that it is safe for consumers.
“Monster Energy Drinks, in fact, contain a dangerously high amount of caffeine that have never been subjected to any kind of pre-market review by any regulatory authority prior to them being put in the stream of commerce,” the lawsuit states. “Numerous scientific studies have shown that the consumption of large amounts of caffeine, in combination with other active ingredients like guarana, taurine, carnitine, sugar, among others, by youth and adolescents can have serious health consequences. Yet, Defendants knowingly and with reckless indifference, market, advertise and sell Monster Energy Drinks as completely safe via playful/seductive advertising designed to attract pre-teens and teens and via product placement.”
The lawsuit notes Monster promotions include bikini-clad models hawking youth-oriented clothing and accessories. Marketing also encourages the consumption of large amounts of Monster energy drinks so that consumers can collect can tabs to trade for gear.
Energy Drinks Industry Investigated
Monster Energy and other competing products, such as Red Bull, Rockstar and 5 Hour Energy, combine high amounts of caffeine with other stimulants, such as guarana and taurine, to increase energy and stamina. However, concerns have emerged in recent years about the side effects of energy drinks, which contain 240 milligrams of caffeine in a 24 ounce can.
Prior research has suggested that caffeine overdose can result in heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias and death after doses ranging from 200 to 400 milligrams, and Monster Energy drinks are aggressively promoted to teens and young adults, who often consume multiple cans in short periods of time to provide a “caffeine buzz” or induced burst of energy.
The FDA has received at least 37 adverse event reports involving Monster drinks since 2004, including at least five deaths reported over the past year and a sixth reported in 2009. The latest lawsuit comes as California officials pressure Monster to prove some of the claims of safety it has made regarding its products.
In October, a Monster Energy wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a 14 year old girl who died from a cardiac arrest that was allegedly caused by a caffeine overdose after consuming two 24 ounce cans within a 24 hour period.
The class action lawsuit over Monster Energy points out that marketing claims suggest that users cannot drink too much, despite the risks of caffeine overdose. The company’s advertising also claims the drink gives an energy “buzz” that suggests it has the effects of an alcoholic beverage.