Last week, a New York family brought an $85 million lawsuit against the makers of Red Bull Energy Drink. The Brooklyn construction worker was 33 years old when he passed away after a basketball game in 2011. His family claims that his death was a direct result of consuming Red Bull prior to that game.
While Monster Beverage Company is facing at least two lawsuits claiming wrongful death as a result of consumption of the company’s energy drinks, this new case is believed to be the first of its kind filed against Red Bull. This only adds to the growing concerns regarding energy drinks and their health effects. Currently, the FDA is investigating the possible dangers of these beverages and exploring their classification as dietary supplements.
Energy drinks have been linked to health difficulties ranging from dizziness to hospitalization. Last year, the FDA released a list of “adverse events,” including death and illness, from June 2005 to late 2012 in which consumption of energy drinks (specifically those marketed as dietary supplements) may have been involved. And according to The Daily News, between 2004 and 2012, the F.D.A. received 21 reports from doctors or hospitals in which Red Bull may have been associated with a variety of health issues.
Cory Terry, the deceased construction worker profiled in this wrongful death lawsuit, was known as a regular Red Bull consumer. The medics who arrived on the scene did seem to link his consumption of the product to his death in their report. Terry’s relatives are suggesting that drinking Red Bull had something to do with his passing.
Doctors noted the cause of Terry’s death as idiopathic dilated cariomyopathym or DCM which is a form of heart failure. It can be caused by a variety of conditions including viral infection, heredity and alcoholism. We don’t know if DCM has ever been linked to energy drink consumption.
What we do know is that many popular energy drinks pack a pretty powerful stimulant punch, using ingredients like guarana seed extract and taurine in addition to caffeine. Both guarana and taurine have stimulant effects. It is true that emergency room visits caused by energy drinks have more than doubled in the last five years. And because many of those drinks are classified as dietary supplements, manufacturers are not following the same regulations for caffeine content as beverage manufacturers. The FDA limits caffeine content to 70 mg per 12 ounce serving of a beverage. But that same regulation doesn’t exist for a dietary supplement. Some energy drinks can contain up to 500 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 14 cans of caffeinated soda).
Energy drinks are especially harmful for children and teenagers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated emphatically that energy drinks should never be consumed by children. The American Medical Association has endorsed a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children.
Here at FoodFacts.com, we’ve got most energy drinks sitting squarely on our “avoid” list. We’re not happy with the idea that as long as manufacturers can claim that these products are dietary supplements, we won’t know how much caffeine they actually contain. And with the use of ingredients like taurine and guarana seed, the stimulant effect of any energy drink may well be more than the average consumer expects.
That being said, we’re also not sure if anyone can draw a straight line between the death of Cory Terry and Red Bull. If he drank Red Bull regularly it might be difficult to prove that when he consumed it that final time it was a direct cause of his heart failure.
We anxiously await decisions from the FDA that offer solutions to the problems concerning energy drink ingredients. In the meanwhile, let’s steer our kids clear of these products.