Three federal legislators released a report on Wednesday that accused energy drink companies of making products that sport inconsistent labels and are marketing highly caffeinated products directly at young people.
The report contained several recommendations for the energy drink industry in order to reduce confusion and increase transparency about ingredients, but also came at a time when leading energy drink companies are already moving in that direction. Nevertheless, the direction of the companies’ marketing efforts is likely to become a hot-button issue.
The report, titled What’s all the Buzz about?, included the compiled responses of 14 energy drink companies that had received letters from the offices of Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) into their products’ ingredients, marketing strategies and regulatory positioning. According to the report, there are inconsistencies in labeling and classification, widespread marketing to adolescents, and unsafe caffeine levels within the energy drink category.
“It’s time for energy drink makers to stop masking their ingredients, stop marketing to kids, and start being more transparent with their products,” Markey said.
The report found that comparable drinks are classified as both conventional beverages and dietary supplements, which they believe could lead to consumer confusion and regulatory conflicts. It also explains that caffeine levels in these products are often above the caffeine level affirmed as safe by the FDA (approximately 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 fluid oz.) and occasionally not disclosed on the packaging
“All consumers, especially parents, have a right to know that these drinks claiming to enhance stamina and strength can be highly risky,” Blumenthal said
In response to their findings, the legislators advise energy drink manufacturers to label products with a clear description of the caffeine level (in milligrams), display a “prominent precautionary statement” for products with unsafe caffeine levels, stop marketing to children and adolescents, and report to the FDA any serious incidents resulting from energy drink consumption.
But Rockstar, Monster and Red Bull, the leading energy drink companies, either already disclose or are moving to disclose their caffeine levels; most companies already also feature a warning statement of some kind.
Read the entire report here.