November 29, 2012 — The FDA has indicated they will likely seek guidance from outside experts to determine whether energy drinks pose risks to young people or those with pre-existing cardiac or other health problems.
In a letter to Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, FDA addressed potential safety concerns by saying they are currently investigating the risks. The FDA also said they are drafting guidelines to clarify the difference between dietary supplements and conventional foods and beverages.
The FDA agreed that certain ingredients in energy drinks (such as stimulants) were a concern. However, the FDA wrote, “resource and capacity constraints preclude government or government-funded toxicity testing of all but a very small number of the possible combinations.” If a study were to find certain energy drink ingredients toxic, the FDA “might consider” regulatory action.
The FDA specifically addressed taurine and guarana, which are flavoring substances added to some energy drinks. If the FDA learns of information raising safety concerns about the substances, they may initiate regulatory action.
The Senators also accused the FDA of failing to address potential health risks associated with children consuming high levels of caffeine in energy drinks. An FDA study found that the average American consumes 300-mg of caffeine per day, and young adults (age 14-21 years) consume 100-mg per day. The Senators cited a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advised limiting caffeine intake in children. The FDA wrote:
“FDA agrees that it may be advisable for certain subpopulations, including children and pregnant women, to limit their caffeine consumption and will discuss this with relevant health professional groups.”
Stocks of energy drink companies such as Monster, Inc. dropped after the FDA reported dozens of deaths and adverse events linked to the drinks. However, after the FDA sent this letter to Senator Durbin, stocks increased because industry analysts said any regulatory outcome was likely to be “benign.”
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