FDA Likely to Seek Expert Opinion on Energy Drinks

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- In a response to a series of letters from U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed it is currently reviewing the safety of energy drinks containing caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants and may require regulatory action if evidence of a health risk is found.

Both senators, who have been calling on the FDA to take action to regulate energy drinks since April, released the letter earlier this week.

In the letter, the FDA stated although energy drinks have the potential to raise safety or regulatory issues, there is a long history of sale use of other products containing caffeine. However, the agency acknowledged that "new products and patters of use require use to remain vigilant, and we are working to strengthen our understanding of the nature of 'energy drinks' and any casual risks to health."

The agency also stated the review "may be greatly enhanced by also engaging specialized expertise outside FDA." That outside help could come from the Institute of Medicine as well as possibly through an advisory committee or other public meeting, the letter said.

"Areas of particular focus would include such matters as the vulnerability of certain populations to stimulants and the incidence and consequences of excessive consumption of 'energy drinks' especially by young people," the FDA wrote.

Durbin first reached out to the FDA concerning energy drinks after learning about the death of a Maryland teenager late last year. According to the senator, the 14-year-old girl died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity upon drinking two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour period, as CSNews Online previously reported.

"There is very clearly a lack of understanding about the health effects of energy drinks and their ingredients especially on children and adolescents," said Durbin and Blumenthal in a joint statement. "I am glad to see that the FDA is undertaking a review but more needs to be done and quickly."

They added they would like to meet with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg "as soon as possible to review the FDA's plan."


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