After 14-year-old Anais Fournier died from consuming highly caffeinated energy drinks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation of Monster Energy drink to research the amount of caffeine these drinks contain and their effects on health.
According to an FDA report, Monster Energy drink, manufactured by Monster Beverage Company, has been linked to six deaths, a non-fatal heart attack and 37 reports of adverse events.
Some of these cases date as far back as 2004, making this an ongoing issue for the last few years.
Though it was the death of Fournier who, according to her autopsy report, died of cardiac arrhythmia and caffeine toxicity, which pushed the FDA into action.
The medical examiner also found a hereditary disorder that weakened her blood vessels, making her more susceptible to caffeine toxicity.
Brandon Stryker, a junior at Baruch remarked, “I’ve never been fond of the consumption of energy drinks. I think that they’re unhealthy and it’s unnatural supplements, and if you want to be more awake you should sleep more.”
The case brought against Monster Beverage Co. by Fournier’s parents, Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier, states that Fournier had purchased and consumed two Monster Energy drinks over a 24-hour period last December.
Within hours of finishing the second Monster, she collapsed and died in the hospital six days later, after being placed in an induced coma.
Monster released a public statement addressing the death. “Over the past 16 years, Monster has sold more than 8 billion energy drinks, which have been safely consumed worldwide. Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier.”
Monster Energy drinks have been known to contain a substantial amount of caffeine— approximately 240 mg in a 24-ounce can.
However, Monster is not the most caffeinated product in the market.
A 16-ounce cup of coffee from Starbucks contains roughly 330 mg of caffeine, according to data from Mayo Clinic. In comparison, Coke contains 35 mg of caffeine in a 12-ounce can.
The FDA limits caffeinated drinks to a maximum of 71 mg caffeine per 12-ounce can in order to be considered safe for consumption.
Sophomore, Issac Lati has a, “pretty positive idea of energy drinks.”
“I have one caffeinated beverage a day, two if need be. For me, it’s either a coffee or a Red Bull,” he said, “I don’t have any issue with it as long as it’s in moderation. You shouldn’t go about drinking, like, eight of them. That isn’t healthy.”
The caffeine in energy drinks is derived from sources such as guarana, a fruit from the Amazon Basin that contains double the amount caffeine coffee beans contain, and taurine, a naturally produced organic acid found in many animals.
Many of the benefits to these ingredients are meager, and the drinks do not meet the threshold of clinical data to be accepted widely by health professionals.
Due to classifications created by the FDA, energy drinks can be marketed as dietary supplements, giving the beverages more leeway in terms of content regulations.
“It’s your choice to consume it, but if they know that there might be a substantial health risk, they should be informing their consumers of it,” said Styker. “Just like cigarettes, they have that a warning on the front that say ‘cigarettes kill’. It’s up to the consumer to be educated.”
Monster Energy drink cans contain a warning label stating that the product is not intended for consumption by children, nor should someone consume more than three in a day.
Recently published research in the Journal of Pediatrics, titled “Heath Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults”, found that the consequences of children heavily consuming energy drinks can be palpitations, seizures, strokes and, in extreme cases, sudden death.
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits involving energy drinks increased to approximately 13,000 in 2009.
Monster remarked, “Neither the science nor the facts support the allegations that have been made. Monster reiterates that its products are and have always been safe.”
Many of the adverse health effects of caffeine are linked to pre-existing factors like weight, age, and underlying health conditions.
These adverse health events demonstrate the nature of the warning on the can of many of these energy drinks – the consumption of these beverages are up to the consumer.