We should be [allowed to be] more aware of what we're taking in.
Concerns that highly caffeinated Monster Energy drinks might be responsible for the recent deaths of at least five young adults are, as I see it, a direct result of deregulation of food oversight.
Here's my version of the history leading up to the present situation:
- In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which in essence deregulated dietary supplements, permitted them to be labeled and regulated as supplements, not foods, and removed much of FDA's authority over their contents and health claims.
- The dietary supplement industry, as I explain in Food Politics, wrote much of the key language of this law.
- When the FDA tried to enforce its food rules for supplements, the courts ruled in favor of manufacturers on First Amendment grounds.
- Because rules for supplements are less restrictive than those for foods, some manufacturers prefer labeling their products as supplements.
- Monster Energy drinks are labeled as supplements, removing them from much of FDA's authority.
The results of DSHEA, in this case, are explained by the New York Times:
But while the FDA regularly makes adverse event reports about drugs and medical devices publicly available, it does not do so for dietary supplements like energy drinks. Because of that policy, consumers had no way of knowing of the complaints about Monster Energy drinks before incident reports were released by the F.D.A. in response to a formal Freedom of Information Act request.
Also, while supplement makers have been required since late 2007 to alert the F.D.A. to possible product-related deaths and injuries, Monster Beverage submitted just one such report to the agency over the last four years, agency officials said.
Most likely because of their high caffeine content, sales of energy drinks are rising rapidly, as shown in the graphic from the Times (at left).