Senators call on FDA to increase oversight of energy drinks

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration will review the safety of energy drinks containing such stimulants as caffeine in response to a letter from two senators.

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the FDA had responded to letters they had been sending to the agency requesting a review of the drinks and that it would possibly take regulatory action if it found evidence of health risks. In a letter sent this month, the two requested a meeting with FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg following reports of 13 people dying following the consumption of the drink 5-Hour Energy.

"There is very clearly a lack of understanding about the health effects of energy drinks and their ingredients, especially on children and adolescents," Durbin and Blumenthal said in a statement. "[We are] glad to see that the FDA is undertaking a review, but more needs to be done and quickly. For instance, [the] FDA can and should take action now to regulate energy drinks that are marketed as beverages, like Red Bull, which has more than the standard of 71 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces [to which] beverages like Coke and Pepsi are held."

In a letter sent in September 2012, the senators asked the agency to respond to their concerns about the interaction of ingredients in energy drinks and the effects the caffeine has on children and adolescents. In an October 2012 letter, following an investigation into five deaths that occurred following the consumption of Monster energy drinks, the senators called on the FDA to identify and recommend what they called remedies for weaknesses and loopholes in the current law, accusing energy drink companies of exploiting them to avoid oversight.