Over the last four years, 13 deaths have been reported that implicate 5-Hour Energy drink as a cause of death. Keep in mind that energy drinks are regulated differently than other caffeinated beverages and that these reports seem to be coming to light more and more often.
It appears that in the last three years, this particular brand (5-Hour Energy) has been cited in at least 90 filings with the F.D.A. More than 30 of those citings involved serious and/or life-threatening injuries. These would include heart attacks, convulsions and a spontaneous abortion. Of course, the report filed with the F.D.A. doesn’t mean that the product was actually responsible for death or injury or in any way contributed to it. But the product was consumed by the people who died or were injured. And that commonality seems to be growing.
Living Essentials, the distributor of 5-Hour Energy made a statement that their product was safe when used as directed and said that it was unaware of any deaths PROVEN to be caused by consuming their product.
Energy drink manufacturers are coming up against heavy criticisms regarding health risks and how they are labeling their products. Because they can fall into the cloudy category of dietary supplements, they are not required to fully disclose their caffeine content. Many lawmakers are asking the F.D.A. to get tougher on their regulations of these products.
5-Hour Energy doesn’t look like most other energy drinks on the market. It’s a small bottle and refers to itself as a “shot”. So consumers are under the impressions that they are getting a smaller amount of an “energy drink”. Consumer Reports recently reported the caffeine content of 5-Hour Energy at around about 215 milligrams. That’s about twice the amount of caffeine as is contained in an 8-ounce cup of coffee. Since it’s about twice as small, some folks might not realize it.
The problems that the F.D.A. faces have to do with how manufacturers classify their products. Some energy drinks, like Red Bull, are classified as beverages. They are governed under different rules than those marketed as dietary supplements. Sort of shorthand for “they can get away with not reporting what they actually contain” if they are classified as dietary supplements.
Daniel Fabricant is the director of the F.D.A’s division of dietary supplement programs. He’s made a statement that the agency is looking into the death reports that have cited 5-Hour Energy. While he says that medical information can, in fact, rule out a link between the deaths and 5-Hour Energy products, he’s also stating that reports may contain insufficient information to implicate the product in the fatalities.
FoodFacts.com has always remained wary of the benefits of energy drinks, most especially because of their appeal to teenagers. Recommended intake of caffeine is very different for young people than adults and we know that the appeal of energy drinks is largely with the younger population. We have a lot we need to say NO to as parents and as other adults who care for young people. Let’s make sure we add energy drinks to that list. Educate your own children and others that you care about regarding the dangers inherent to these controversial products.