With energy drinks filling up more and more shelves in gas stations, convenience stores and supermarkets all over the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voiced its concerns about these products being mislabeled by manufacturers. More specifically, the FDA is concerned that these beverages are being advertised and sold using misleading health claims and with intentional misstatements of ingredients used.
In response, New York’s attorney general has launched an investigation into the marketing and advertising practices of some of the energy-drink industry’s biggest manufacturers, namely PepsiCo Inc., Monster Beverage Corp., AMP maker PEP +0.47%, 5-hour Energy drink maker Living Essentials LLC, and MNST +1.50%. The probe is looking into whether or not these manufacturers are using inaccurate and misleading labeling and advertising, overstating the health benefits of certain ingredients and understating the caffeine content. Industry critics have stated that caffeine is the main active ingredient in energy drinks.
Energy drinks have become a multibillion-dollar industry in the US. Beverage Digest reported that retail sales of energy drinks in the US increased by 16 percent in 2011, amounting to $8.9 billion in sales.
Compared to FDA regulations for traditional sodas, those for energy drinks are looser. In fact, there is no FDA-approved definition for the term “energy drink” and manufacturers use the term indiscriminately. The federal agency said manufacturers are using certain natural ingredients in their drinks for purposes that are beyond what is traditional and this practice raises many healthy safety questions.
Any consumer who has tried these drinks would know that they are often sweetened and usually come in a variety of fruit flavors. Each brand makes different energy-boosting claims: the 5-hour Energy website claims their drink gives “hours of energy” and you will experience “no crash later;” the AMP website says their drinks contain B-vitamins and caffeine that offer “the kick you need to tackle the early morning meeting.”
While the products’ labels say that there is caffeine in the drinks, they often do not indicate exactly how much. Most products also contain ingredients that are also sources of caffeine, such as guarana, increasing the caffeine content even more. The New York probe is also investigating if the use of these ingredients violates laws that limit the source of caffeine in a beverage to only one ingredient.
If the probe finds that manufacturers of energy drinks committed New York state law violations concerning food and drug regulations, they may be made to make changes to their labels as well as their marketing practices and also pay civil fines and penalties.
Some experts have stated that the kick energy drinks deliver can only be attributed to their caffeine content; the other ingredients may not have any health effects at all and are only being used for marketing purposes. According to health experts, an average person can safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine daily; too much can lead to heart problems.