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Monster Energy Drinks Will No Longer Be Labeled as Dietary Supplement

Monster energy drinks will soon be classified as a beverage, dropping the dietary supplement label, which has allowed the manufacturer to sell the drink without disclosing the amounts of caffeine and other stimulants it contains. The move comes after the manufacturer has faced sharp criticism amid mounting concerns about the risk of sever and potentially life-threatening health problems from Monster energy drinks.

The labeling change was disclosed this week in Beverage Digest, an industry trade publication, after an interview with Monster Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rodney Sacks. The change comes as the drink maker faces a number of lawsuits over Monster Energy, which allege that the beverage poses potential risks that are not adequately disclosed.

The designation change means that Monster energy drinks will be qualified as a food item by the FDA, and will list “Nutritional Facts” instead of the current “Supplemental Facts.” The company will also reveal the caffeine content and will be restricted to ingredients that the FDA considers “generally recognized as safe.”

Dietary Supplement Label Gives Manufacturers Wide Regulatory Leeway

To date, Monster energy drinks have been 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.

Critics have indicated that 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.

Many other energy drinks also use dietary supplement designations to avoid federal oversight. However, Red Bull, the second leading energy drink by volume after Monster, is already treated as a beverage.

Concerns Raised Over Caffeine Side Effects

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 potential side effects of energy drinks may pose, especially among children and young adults who are typically encouraged to consume large amounts of the beverage.

Research has found 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.

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.

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