Halloween and Real Monsters to be Aware of in Massachusetts: Are Energy Drinks Safe for Massachusetts Consumers?

Some time ago we wrote a Massachusetts personal injury blog story about the dangers of Four Loko, a mixture of booze and caffeine that was subsequently taken off the market in Massachusetts and many other states. The new approach for selling drinks is Monster drinks.
Monster is selling sweet drinks that may have a lethal dose of caffeine. To date, five deaths have been associated with Monster caffeinated beverages; and 37 incidents have been reported. The Federal Food and Drug Administration is investigating.

We know of one lawsuit, by a family in Maryland, who is suing Monster Beverage Corporation alleging that the massive toxicity of the Monster drink was the proximate cause of 14-year-old Anais Fournier’s death. The name of the case is Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier v. Monster Beverage Corp., Superior Court, Riverside County, California. Anais apparently drank two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy, without knowing that it could kill her.

Monster, in its defense, notes that they have sold 8 billion drinks, with no incident, and should not be held responsible. Nevertheless, Monster is the leading producer of “energy” drinks, and emergency room treatment for folks consuming “energy” drinks was up to 14,114 in 2009. It is significant that over 50% of those in emergency rooms for caffeine toxicity were 18-25 years old. The victims were often treated for alcohol or drug related poisoning as well.

One problem could be regulation, or lack thereof. The FDA guidelines for caffeine do not apply if the drink is an “energy” drink, as opposed to a soda! Thus, it’s all in the marketing. Nor does the FDA even require the amount of caffeine to be listed! For example, caffeine in a can of soda has up to 71 milligrams of caffeine; caffeine in an energy drink can have up to 500 milligrams of caffeine. And a minimal amount of caffeine would be 160 milligrams for an energy drink.  

Another concern is that when you look at the American Beverage Association, you find that Monster is not a member. The ABA requires all members to list the amount of caffeine on their labels. Apparently, it does not associate itself with the huge beverage market. Perhaps it associates itself with the drug market. It must, because the ABA requires labels to state that mixing caffeine with alcohol is dangerous. This is exactly what happened in the Four Loko scare a few years back. 

The history of Monster is interesting. Started before the Second World War in California, the company, Hansen, sold fruit juice to Hollywood studios. It had many incarnations, but filed for bankruptcy protection in 1988. Earlier this year, the name was changed again to Monster Beverage Corporation. While they still sell soda, the focus is on the energy drinks called such things as Java Monster and Monster Rehab.

What should the “government” do? Well, we are not opposed to folks being able to consumer caffeine. We are opposed to allowing children to consume it, although we don’t see the government getting involved in that either. However, what the government, the FDA in this case can and should do, is follow the ABA regulations and require truth in labeling: require the amount of caffeine, a dangerous drug if taken at a toxic level and by children, to be listed on the label of all drinks, even Monster drinks on Halloween. Boo!