Doctors, public health experts want more FDA regulation of energy drinks

Monster changes from dietary supplement to beverage, according to published reports

NEW YORK — A group of doctors and public health professors are hoping the Food and Drug Administration will place stronger regulations on energy drinks to protect children and adolescents from what they call the harmful effects of high caffeine consumption.

The group, which includes 18 doctors and public health experts from around the country, delivered the letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg Tuesday, citing research indicating that consuming energy drinks — which have a high caffeine content — is leading to emergency room visits and even deaths among children.

"Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the serious health risks of these drinks," University of California Berkeley public health professor and signatory Patricia Crawford said. "They have no place in the diets of young people."

The letter noted that energy drinks are projected to reach $19.7 billion in sales this year and that, according to an FDA-commissioned study from 2010, 65% of the people consuming them are ages 13 years to 35 years, while according to recent reports, between 30% and 50% of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks. At the same time, according to the Drug Abuse Warning NEtwork, emergency room visits related to energy drinks more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, from 10,068 to 20,783.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Monster Beverage, the largest maker of energy drinks, plans to change the labeling on its Monster Energy drink and sell it as a beverage rather than a dietary supplement, as it has for a decade. The Times reported that the change would mean the company would no longer required to inform regulators about reports that may link its drinks to injuries and deaths. The company also plans to list Monster Energy's caffeine content on the can. Another energy drink line, Rockstar Energy, underwent a similar change to its packaging.

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