German Government Agency Report Draws Attention to the Safety of Energy Drinks

June 12, 2008

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (“BfR”) has issued a report that discusses recent human data on potential health risks arising from consumption of energy drinks.  According to the report, the safety concerns expressed by BfR in a prior expert opinion are “substantiated by more recent human data.”  BfR reiterates its recommendation that the packaging of energy drinks should state that “adverse effects cannot be ruled out when larger amounts of these beverages are consumed in conjunction with intensive physical activity or with intake of alcoholic beverages,” and that “beverages of this kind, particularly when consumed in larger amounts, are not recommended for children, pregnant women, lactating women or individuals who are sensitive to caffeine."  Citing risks of spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, and intrauterine growth retardation, BfR advises a reduction in the daily intake of caffeine for pregnant women (from 300 to 200 mg/day).  With respect to children, BfR cites findings indicating that increased excitability, nervousness, or anxiety are observed at a dose of 5 mg/kg of body weight, and that there is little information on the long term effects of caffeine consumption.  Finally, BfR also raises the question of whether individuals with existing health disorders are at increased risk of adverse effects from consumption of energy drinks, and recommends that patients with high blood pressure or heart disease who consume energy drinks do so in moderation.

As noted by BfR, a number of European and non-European countries have imposed requirements on, or acted to curtail the sale of, energy drinks.  Given the recent transatlantic furor over reports of potential health risks to children reportedly associated with consumption of certain colors, it would not be surprising to see an increased focus in the U.S. on potential health risks to certain subpopulations that may be presented by consumption of energy drinks.  In fact, New Jersey assemblyman Ralph Caputo was reported to be contemplating introducing legislation that would have prohibited the sale to minors of energy drinks containing large doses of caffeine.  For now, Mr. Caputo appears to have opted to tackle fruit hanging a bit closer the ground – marketing to minors of merchandise, including foods and beverages, that links a product to any “controlled dangerous substance or analog” – a clear strike at energy drinks such as CocaineTM and BlowTM.  For the text of the bill, click here.

By Ricardo Carvajal

Categories: Foods