Petition Calls On FDA to Regulate Energy Drinks

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Petition Calls On FDA to Regulate Energy Drinks

BALTIMORE -- One hundred scientists and physicians have written a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking for more regulation of increasingly popular energy drinks, according to a report by USA TODAY.

The letter, written by Roland Griffiths, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said the drinks’ high caffeine content puts young drinkers at possible risk for caffeine intoxication and higher rates of alcohol-related injuries. It asks the FDA to require the drinks' caffeine content be listed on the can, to set a limit on the amount of stimulant allowed in the drinks and to require warning labels.

The U.S. market for energy drinks is estimated at $5.4 billion in 2006, growing at an annual rate of 55 percent per year, according to Packaged Facts.

The United States is the world's largest consumer by volume of energy drinks, roughly 290 million gallons in 2007, according to Zenith International, a British consulting group. Americans drink 3.8 quarts per person per year, USA TODAY reported.

The market in the U.S. began with the introduction of Red Bull in 1997 and has expanded rapidly. Today’s energy drinks are advertised as increasing endurance, reaction time and concentration, with names such as Full Throttle, Amp Energy and No Fear. It's the wide variations between brands that are a danger, according to Griffiths.

"You can pick up a can and drink it and get 50 milligrams, which is the amount in a Mountain Dew, or pick one up and get 500 milligrams, and that's enough to put someone who hasn't built up a tolerance to caffeine into caffeine intoxication," he said.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association said lumping mainstream energy drinks with moderate amounts of caffeine with "companies seeking attention and increased sales based solely on extreme names and caffeine content" was unhelpful. As for caffeine content, "consumers can easily find out how much caffeine is in a beverage by calling the company's 1-800 number or visiting its Web site" for those drinks that don't list content on their labels, the association stated.

FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the agency does not comment on petitions.