FoodFacts.com is tracking more news on attempted beverage bans in New York City. First came Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large-sized sugary beverages being sold in the city. Now New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman is conducting an investigation into energy drink manufacturers based on deceiving consumers regarding their products health risks.
Now, please don’t get us wrong. FoodFacts.com is no fan of energy drinks – evidenced by the health scores most receive on our site. But we’re fairly shocked that the probe being conducted is focused on how accurately companies are disclosing the amount of caffeine in these beverages. The companies that have been subpoenaed are Monster Beverage, PepsiCo and Living Essentials (5 Hour Energy). The focus of the investigations appears to be on the possibility of caffeine-laden ingredients that are not included on the product labels. Things like black tea extract or guarana (which has already proven to be dangerous).
So, why is FoodFacts having a problem with this? Well, if you take a good look at the brands in question, we’re wondering why caffeine is the focus of the probe. Certainly, if manufacturers are including ingredients in their beverages that they are not listing on the label, they should be made to change their actions. But … why isn’t the government focusing on ingredients like Benzoic Acid, Acesulfame Potassium and Caramel Color?
Benzoic Acid (which is present in almost all of these products) has been studied in rats, cats and rabbits and has shown different degrees of toxicity. Symptoms can include hypoactivity, emaciation, diarrhea, muscle weakness and tremors. Benzoic Acid in humans has been linked to rashes, asthma, inflammation of nasal mucus membranes and anaphylactic shock in some cases.
The presence of this ingredient alone should alert the government that caffeine isn’t the only concern here. So why isn’t anyone talking about the other problematic ingredients included in energy drinks?
We know that energy drinks have quickly become a multimillion dollar industry. We know they are not healthy options. And we also know that too much caffeine in a person’s diet can cause major problems. But for FoodFacts.com, that’s the whole point. We all know that too much caffeine isn’t good for us. But how many consumers actually understand that Benzoic Acid and Acesulfame Potassium – to name just two of the ingredients that are commonly included in these beverages – can cause major health problems.
Why is the concern about misleading consumers focused strictly on caffeine? Why isn’t there a concern that consumers are being misled about the other potentially harmful ingredients included in energy drinks? And why is the government focusing only on the ingredient that consumers are already familiar with and already have a general understanding of? Hate to say it, but perhaps there are fewer lobbyists attempting to get the ear of the government for caffeine than there may be for other additives. Just a guess …
We stand firmly behind the idea that consumers need to be educated regarding the ingredients in our food supply. ALL ingredients. Not just caffeine … which most consumers are fairly familiar with and understand more than Benzoic Acid. So for the Attorney General of New York City: FoodFacts.com would really appreciate a more educated, expanded view of why energy drinks might need regulation. We’re betting most consumers would actually appreciate it too.