A few days after The New York Times revealed that 5-Hour Energy had been mentioned in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports linking consumption of its energy shots to 13 deaths, Living Essentials, which markets and distributes 5-Hour, announced that it was dealing with another potential loss of revenue and brand reputation: counterfeiting.
On Monday, Living Essentials announced it had a completed a private nationwide investigation into the sale of counterfeit bottles of 5-Hour Energy. As a result of the investigation, which was conducted throughout October, the company said that it seized thousands of counterfeit 5-Hour products. The seizures were made with the authorization of U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto of New York.
As detailed in a series of court documents filed by an attorney for Living Essentials, the request for authorized seizure came after an individual identified as a “salesman” contacted the company in late September, suspecting that bottles of 5-Hour Energy had been improperly altered. In response to the salesman’s suspicion and upon receiving authorization, Living Essentials conducted “an extensive, rapid nationwide investigation.”
Private investigators purchased varying flavors of counterfeit 5-Hour Energy at several retailers in New York, Arizona, Maryland, Texas, Nevada and California among other states. The investigation helped identify the case’s defendants, the amount of counterfeit products on the market, and the differences between authentic and counterfeit 5-hour Energy bottles.
Here are some of the differences:
-The counterfeit bottles are slightly shorter than the authentic bottles.
-The ingredients label of the Extra-Strength Berry flavor counterfeit misspells “Artificial Flavors” as “Art ficial Flavors.”
-The caps of authentic bottles have a raised “pimple” mark in the center, which derives from the plastic molding process. The counterfeit caps are smooth and lack the raised mark.
-The counterfeit bottles feature a slightly fatter silhouette of the Living Essentials’ “Running Man” logo.
-The inconsistent colors of the liquid in the counterfeit bottles don’t match the pale pink color of the authentic liquid that spans all flavors.
-The counterfeit product has a different smell and taste, both senses unspecified in detail by the court document.
-A forensic chemist retained by Living Essentials determined that the counterfeit product contained no detectable amount of vitamin B12, compared to the authentic product that contains 7.8 parts per million of the vitamin.
In the court document, Living Essentials stated that it “is not aware of serious adverse events associated with the counterfeits. However, Living Essentials cannot vouch for their safety or purity. The counterfeits have been manufactured by unknown criminals at an unknown location or locations.”
Along with halting operations and destroying all existing counterfeit materials, the prayer for relief submitted by the plaintiff’s attorney, Geoffrey Potter of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, requested that each defendant award Living Essentials no less than $25 million, a figure to be ascertained at trial.
5-Hour Energy did not comment on the investigation for this article. The company’s press release is as follows:
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – Nov. 19, 2012 –- Living Essentials, LLC, distributor of 5-hour ENERGY, recently discovered counterfeit 5-hour ENERGY products circulating in the marketplace. Living Essentials, LLC, acted swiftly to identify and halt the counterfeiting operation and filed suits in U.S. Federal District courts in both California and New York.
The company has indentified and shut down the counterfeiters’ factory. Living Essentials, LLC, also executed court orders that have permitted it to seize large quantities of fake product from numerous locations as well the machinery used by the counterfeiters to package the counterfeits.
No serious adverse events have been reported to date related to the identified counterfeit 5-hour ENERGY products.
Consumers can identify whether 5-hour ENERGY products they purchased are counterfeit by examining the lot number located on the bottom of the bottle’s packaging and on the bottom of each bottle. Known counterfeit products are:
Regular Strength Berry
Extra Strength Berry
Regular Strength Orange
Please note that the counterfeiters used lot numbers that also appear on authentic 5-Hour ENERGY®, so both fake and some real bottles have these lot numbers.
Living Essentials, LLC, is working with appropriate authorities, including law enforcement, to investigate and aggressively proceed against those involved in producing, distributing and selling counterfeit 5-Hour ENERGY.
“We are extremely upset that a group of alleged criminals preyed upon and profited from the loyal, hardworking customers who have come to rely on us to provide them with a high-quality product and the world’s leading energy shot,” said Scott Henderson, president of 5-hour ENERGY®.
Those who call will be asked to mail the product to:
Fake 5-hour ENERGY c/o Kroll Advisory Services, 600 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016. Everyone will be asked to include their name, address and telephone number and the name and address of the store from which you purchased the product when they send in the counterfeit product.
About 5-Hour Energy
5-hour ENERGY is a liquid energy shot that provides a feeling of energy and alertness that lasts for hours. It contains a blend of B-vitamins and amino acids, zero sugar, four calories, caffeine comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee. It is available at retail outlets in the United States and Canada as well as throughout the U.K., Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands.
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