Durbin asks FDA to regulate caffeine levels in energy drinks

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week to regulate energy drinks like Monster Energy, Rockstar and Red Bull, which he said might contain more caffeine than young consumers can handle.

"I am calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take regulatory action to address the rising health concerns around energy drinks," Durbin wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

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Durbin's letter is a reaction to the December death of a 14-year-old girl who suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that Durbin's office said was due to "caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period."

"Consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia and in some cases death," Durbin wrote. "Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth, their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination."

Durbin noted that the FDA has the authority to regulate caffeine levels in soft drinks, and can regulate additives in beverages to make sure they're safe. He said that if the FDA determines that the caffeine levels in these drinks raise safety concerns, they could limit those levels.

Durbin also asked the FDA to clarify whether energy drinks should be regulated as a beverage, rather than a dietary supplement. Currently, he said these companies have the flexibility to market their products as supplements, allowing them to avoid tougher rules for food and beverages.

But he said the companies themselves often treat their products like a beverage. "Rockstar Energy Drink's website says, 'Enjoy this fully refreshing lightly carbonated beverage,'" he said as an example.

Durbin also asked the FDA to require manufacturers to "provide scientific evidence that ingredients, such as guarana, taurine and ginseng, are safe for their intended use and when used in combination with other ingredients and caffeine."

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