October 22, 2012 — Shares of Monster Beverage Corp. dropped by 14.2% today after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that they have received reports of five deaths linked to the drinks in the last three years. The reports do not prove a conclusive link between the energy drinks and deaths, but they do raise concerns, because voluntary reports typically under-estimate the actual number of incidents.
Last week, Wendy Crossland, the mother of Anais Fournier, filed a Monster energy drink lawsuit against the beverage company. Fournier, a 14 year-old girl, died of a cardiac arrest while watching a movie at home. The lawsuit alleges that Monster failed to adequately warn about the risks of consuming the beverages.
She reportedly consumed two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks within 24 hours, consuming nearly 500-mg of caffeine. An autopsy report revealed that she died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.” Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a genetic disorder, and the girl was aware that she had the disorder, but her doctors did not recommend restricting exercise or caffeine intake.
In response to the girl’s death, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) sent a letter to the FDA requesting a limit on the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks. Current FDA guidelines do not require companies to disclose the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, because they are regulated as dietary supplements, which are exempt from most government regulation — unlike sodas like Coca Cola, which must limit the amount of caffeine in their product (up to 71-mg per 12-ounces). Some energy drinks have 500-mg of caffeine per serving.
Emergency room visits regarding the products have increased 10-fold from 2005 though 2009 — at least 13,114 emergency room visits were recorded in 2009 alone. About half of the incidents involved people between 18-25 years old, often when drugs or alcohol were also involved. Some of the incidents involved heart attack, chest pain, and vomiting, or other side effects.
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