Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released a new report documenting major energy drink manufacturers willingness or reluctance to implement proposed restrictions on the sale and marketing of energy drinks to teenagers.

After a July hearing on energy drinks in the Senate Commerce Committee, the senators sent letters to 16 companies which produced major energy drink brands. The letters sought commitments from the companies to voluntarily undertake measures meant to protect teenagers from dangerous marketing and promotion of the energy drinks.

After the companies responded, the senators compiled a report titled Buzz Kill: A Survey of Popular Energy Drinks Finds Majority of the Market Unwilling to Make Commitments to Protect Adolescents. The report noted that while the companies had done a good job of reducing their marketing to children under the age of 12, the drink makers were still targeting teenagers and older adolescents.

Senators Propose Voluntary Changes to Company Practices

The senators recommended that the energy drink manufacturers commit to making several changes to their marketing and promotion policies. The letters suggested that both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the companies themselves, work to change the access children have to highly-caffeinated drinks. The recommendations included:

  • That energy drink manufacturers cease marketing of energy drinks to children under the age of 18 and stop sales in k-12 school settings;
  • That the FDA develops suggestions for daily caffeine limits for children and adolescents;
  • That the FDA creates guidelines for reporting adverse health events associated with energy drinks;
  • That there be guidelines established for what constitutes an energy drink versus a sports drink or other functional beverage;
  • That caffeinated beverages not be marketed in a way that promotes them as a sports drink or for use after exercise; and
  • That sales or promotions of energy drinks in school-based programs be restricted.

Energy Drink Companies Commit to Some Recommendations, Ignore Others

12 major energy drink manufacturers responded to the senators letters. The letters received some positive responses, but the senators found that the four companies making up 90% of US energy drink sales had significant gaps in their commitment to product youths aged 13-18 from the dangers of energy drinks. While all major companies who responded agreed not to market energy drinks to children under 12, the vast majority refused to make the same commitment for older youths.

In addition, while 6 out of 10 companies were willing to report adverse events to the Food and Drug Administration, the largest companies were reluctant. PepsiCo, Target, and Red Bull would agree to report these events only if certain conditions were met, and The Coca-Cola Company refused to commit to reporting adverse health consequences of their products.

Goldberg Finnegan Join Senators in Calling for Stronger Regulation

Senators Durbin, Markey, and Blumenthal agree that federal regulation of these dangerous products may be the only way to ensure that teenagers and young adults do not become harmed or addicted to energy drinks.

In response to the reports release, Senator Markey said, It is time for these energy drink companies to stand up as good corporate citizens and agree to measures for appropriate marketing and consumption of their products, especially to teens. When negative health impacts from these beverages are possible, consumers need to be protected and any misleading marketing practices must be stopped. Unfortunately, unless new laws are passed which regulate the sale and promotion of energy drinks, consumers may have to rely on corporations to govern themselves responsibly.

The personal injury attorneys in Silver Spring at Goldberg Finnegan know firsthand how dangerous energy drinks can be to the health of children and adolescents. Our attorneys fight for the rights of people injured or killed by these highly-caffeinated beverages, and hope that federal regulation will soon prevent these dangerous products from falling into the hands of our impressionable young people. If you or your child has been injured by an energy drink, Goldberg Finnegan is here to help.