Chicago considers ban on certain energy drinks

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — Edward M. Burke, a city councilman in Chicago, on Jan. 17 proposed that the city ban distribution of certain energy drinks. The proposed ban would apply to a canned or bottled beverage that contains an amount of caffeine exceeding or equal to 180 mg per container and containing taurine or guarana.

According to Monster Beverage Corp., Corona, Calif., Monster Energy drinks generally contain 10 mg of caffeine per oz from all sources. Thus, under the Chicago proposal, a can or a bottle of Monster Energy, or other energy drinks with the same level of caffeine, would need to be less than 18 oz.

The proposal said anybody convicted of selling, giving away, bartering or exchanging such a drink should receive a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500. Any repeat violations would be grounds for revocation or suspension of a license.

The proposal gave several reasons for the ban. Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster, Full Throttle and 5-Hour Energy are popular among teenagers. They are sold side by side with soft drinks and fruit juices at retail outlets. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and may affect blood pressure, heart rate and brain function. A 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania suffered heart arrhythmia after consuming two Monster Energy drinks over two days and later died. Manufacturers may label energy drinks as dietary supplements, which fall under different federal regulation than beverages such as soft drinks and juices.

Rodney Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of Monster Beverage Corp., defended the safety of energy drinks in a Dec. 11, 2012, investors’ meeting. He said energy drinks are as safe as coffee purchased at coffee houses. He also said the Food and Drug Administration reviewed literature on taurine and guarana, two ingredients found in many energy drinks, and failed to find any information that questioned the safety of the two ingredients.
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