When it comes to protecting the public from the dangers of energy drinks, Monster Beverage Corp. is like the rooster guarding the hen house. That’s the opinion of Kevin Goldberg, an attorney with Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, and one half of the legal team representing the family of Anais Fournier, a 14 year-old girl whose death in 2011 is blamed on her consumption of two Monster Energy drinks. Fournier’s family sued Monster in October, and Goldberg weighed in on several aspects of the case for a recent Q & A on LawyersandSettlements.com.
Goldberg called out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as having done a “terrible job” informing the public about potential risks associated with energy drinks. Goldberg takes particular issue with an FDA policy that allows energy drink companies to self-determine whether their products will be regulated as beverages or dietary supplements. He argues that it is “crystal clear” that energy drinks should be categorized as beverages, despite the fact that many use a supplement facts label on their packaging.
Until recently, Monster had been one of those companies that identified its products as supplements; the company made the switch to a nutrition facts label in February. While Monster will now be required to disclose the amount of ingredients — including caffeine — in its drinks, Goldberg accuses the company of changing its label as way to skirt the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Act, which requires supplement marketers to disclose adverse effects of consumption to the agency. Adverse reports dating back to 2005 have linked energy products to dozens of illnesses and injuries, as well as some deaths. The reports have gained a tremendous amount of publicity in recent months and had a negative impact on perception of the category.
Regardless of whether energy drinks are label with nutrition or supplement facts label, Goldberg said that he and Fournier family are calling for specific labeling that cautions consumers about potential dangers from consuming energy drinks, and in particular, a statement that warns “anyone with an underlying heart condition should not consume energy drink.” The Founier’s lawsuit claims that Anais Fournier, who had a preexisting condition, went into cardiac arrest and later died following her consumption of two 24 oz. Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period.