The parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died of cardiac arrest last December after drinking two 24-oz. cans of Monster Energy drink –- the equivalent of about 14 cans of regular soda -- on two consecutive days are suing the company for not warning consumers about the potential risks related to its drinks.
“Monster, with their targeted marketing practices and promotion of energy drinks to teenagers, put profits over the safety of America’s youth,” attorney Kevin Goldberg of Goldberg, Finnegan, and Mester, Silver Spring, Md., says in a story written by Denise Bonura of the Waynesboro [Penn.] Record Herald. “Nothing can bring Anais back, but we can tell the world these energy drinks are harmful.”
"The downsides are not printed anywhere on these cans," Alexander R. Wheeler, a Los Angeles attorney also representing Anais' parents, tells the Los Angeles Times’ Laura J. Nelson and Chad Terhune. "Her parents want to make sure this never happens to another family."
Nelson and Terhune also report “some lawmakers and consumer advocates are calling for tougher regulation of energy drinks sold by Monster, Red Bull and beverage giants such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.,” which often contain heavy doses of caffeine and sugar and “are heavily marketed as a way to boost performance, focus or overall health.”
Records the deceased girl’s parents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act disclose that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating other claims against Monster Energy -- including five deaths -- but none of them thus far “prove a link,” The New York Times’ Barry Meier reports.
The company says in a statement that it will “vigorously” defend itself and that it is “"unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks." It also points out that more than 8 billion drinks have been “safely” consumed over the past 16 years.
FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess tells the Times’ Meier “the agency had received reports of five deaths with possible links to the drink as well as a report of a nonfatal heart attack. Additional incident reports referred to other adverse events such as abdominal pain, vomiting, tremors and abnormal heart rate. The reports disclosed cover a period fof 2004 to June of this year, but all the deaths occurred in 2009 or later.”
Meier points out that “companies are not required to disclose caffeine levels in their beverages and can choose to market them as drinks or as dietary supplements,” under FDA rules.
The girl, Anais Fournier, went into cardiac arrest while watching a movie at her home in Hagerstown, Md., according to her parents in a story written by Susanna Kim of ABC News. “According to the autopsy report and the death certificate, Fournier died from ‘cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome,’” Kim writes. According to the Baltimore Sun, citing the Mayo Clinic, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is “an inherited disorder that can make connective tissues, like skin and blood vessel walls, flexible and weak.”
Headlines such as “Monster Energy Drinks Might Kill You,” which appeared over Taylor Berman’s Gawker piece, sent the company’s stock plummeting yesterday. Monster fell 14% to $45.73 at the close of New York trading, Bloomberg reports, erasing all the gains the stock had made this year.
There were 40 comments to Berman’s aggregation, many of which are sympathetic to the company.
“Looking at the 15.5 oz. can of Monster Rehab Tea + Lemonade sitting on my desk (they are delicious), it clearly says, ‘Max 1 can every 4 hours, limit 3 cans per day. Not recommended for children or people sensitive to caffeine,’” writes one reader. “You can overdose on most anything if you don't use it as directed.”
Indeed, other commenters in Gawker and elsewhere point to people dying from taking too much of everything from water to aspirin.
“I was shocked to learn the FDA can regulate caffeine in a can of soda, but not these huge energy drinks,” Fournier’s mother, Wendy Crossland, said in a statement released by her attorneys. “With their bright colors and names like Monster, Rockstar, and Full Throttle, these drinks are targeting teenagers with no oversight or accountability. These drinks are death traps for young, developing girls and boys, like my daughter, Anais."
At least two governmental bodies are investigating energy drinks. “In August, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to energy drink makers, including Monster, as part of the state's investigation of the industry,” the AP reports. “And in September, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked the FDA to take another look at the effect that caffeine and other ingredients in energy drinks have on children and adolescents.”
Fornier’s death was the subject of a report by Tom Costello on NBC’s “Today Show” last March.
"Between the caffeine, the sugar, its effects on blood pressure, potential adverse effects, I think it's really difficult to justify a case for children, young adults to be using these substances right now," Dr. Allen Taylor, chief of cardiology at Georgetown University Hospital, tells NBC News in the piece.