Can Energy Drinks Cause Sudden Cardiac Death?

Can Energy Drinks Cause Sudden Cardiac Death?

Parents sue Monster after Dec. 23, 2011 death of 14-year-old, attributing it to “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.”

Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST)’s energy drinks have been cited in the deaths of five people in the past year, according to incident reports that doctors and companies submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The five reports received by the agency said the victims consumed Monster drinks prior to their deaths, Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview. The agency said the incidents, which are voluntarily reported, are considered to be allegations, and no conclusion is drawn until a full investigation is completed. Monster shares tumbled by as much as 10 percent. 

The FDA reports are being used by parents who sued Corona, California-based Monster last week, claiming the drinks led to caffeine toxicity that killed their 14-year-old daughter. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, is asking the FDA to consider caffeine limits on energy drinks after emergency room visits involving such products jumped 10-fold from 2005 through 2009.

“FDA continues to evaluate the emerging science on a variety of ingredients, including caffeine,” Burgess said in an earlier e-mail. 

The five deaths, and a sixth in 2009 in which a person died of a heart attack, were among 37 adverse reaction reports since 2004 that mentioned Monster drinks, according to a log of incidents that health professionals and other people voluntarily recorded with the FDA. The agency has said it is working on draft guidelines that would ensure energy drinks are safe. 

The log of adverse incident reports was given to Bloomberg News by Kevin Goldberg, a lawyer representing the parents of the 14-year-old girl who died. The girl, Anais Fournier, had consumed two Monster drinks, according to a copy of the complaint filed Oct. 17 in state court in Riverside, California. 

Monster, the largest U.S. energy drink maker by sales volume, sold about $1.6 billion worth of such drinks last year, the majority of company revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its energy drink sales have tripled since 2006. 

“Over the past 16 years, Monster has sold more than 8 billion energy drinks, which have been safely consumed worldwide,” the company said in an e-mailed statement sent through an outside spokesman, Evan Pondel. “Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier. Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.” 

The company said it intends to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit and won’t comment further. 

Caffeine Guidelines

Emergency room visits involving energy drinks increased to 13,114 in 2009, with about half those trips made by patients 18 to 25 years old and also involving drugs or alcohol, according to a November report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The event reports linked to Monster claimed that some of the life-threatening illnesses were characterized by heart attack, chest pain and vomiting. 

The Center for Food Safety Adverse Event Reporting System is used by the public to report illnesses that the user deems to be linked to a particular food, drug or dietary supplement. The claims, which serve as a signal to the FDA, don’t prove causation, Burgess said. 

Monster and competitors such as Red Bull aren’t bound by the FDA guidelines for caffeine in sodas, because energy drinks are often sold as dietary supplements. Monster doesn’t list the amount of caffeine in its proprietary formula, only that the ingredient along with the plant extract guarana and the amino acid taurine are in the drink, according to the lawsuit. 

Cardiac Arrhythmia

Soda typically can have as much as 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces for the FDA to consider it safe. The FDA may require companies to prove caffeine levels are safe if they exceed the guideline. Caffeine in energy drinks often ranges from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams a serving, the FDA said in an August letter responding to Senator Durbin’s call for greater regulation of the industry. 

Regulators are assessing the nation’s caffeine intake to ensure the amount in energy drinks is as safe as that in coffee, soda and tea, the FDA said earlier this year after Durbin raised the issue in April. 

The parents of Fournier, the Maryland 14-year-old, are seeking damages in court in excess of $25,000, according to their complaint. The cause of the Dec. 23, 2011, death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity,” according to the lawsuit, which cited a state autopsy report. The Maryland medical examiner’s office in Baltimore said the autopsy cited is a valid report, without making any further comment about the legal claims related to the death. 

Additional Cases

A trial date hasn’t been set, the lawyer said. He said his firm, Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester in Silver Spring, Maryland, is investigating additional cases involving Monster and other energy drink companies. 

“Our primary goal is to make sure Monster is aware of what Anais’ mother thinks the drink did to her child,” the lawyer, Goldberg, said in a telephone interview. 

“It’s the first wrongful death case involving a minor child against an energy drink company that I’m aware of,” he said. 

The case is Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier v. Monster Beverage Corp., California Superior Court, Riverside County (Riverside). 

SOURCE: Bloomberg News

Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

SCA Newsletter

Sign Up with the SCA Foundation News in order to stay informed! (* required field)

Contact Us

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation would like to hear from you! If you have questions or comments — Contact Us!


Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
7500 Brooktree Road
Wexford, PA 15090

Copyright © 2019 Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Web Design & Development, & Web Hosting By FastWebEngine