A small mention in an obscure regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveals energy drink maker Monster Beverage is being investigated by a state attorney general.
Monster produces and markets a number of so-called energy drinks, including Monster Energy, Hansen's Energy and Blue Sky. The filing said the probe by the unnamed attorney general focused on advertising, marketing, promotion and ingredients.
A number of states in recent years have taken action against energy drinks that contain alcohol. Among the most recent are Washington State and Illinois. No state has announced it is investigating energy drinks, but of course such investigations are never announced in advance.
Energy drinks of all types have come under closer scrutiny at both the federal and state level. In an April letter to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called for an investigation into energy drinks like Monster Energy, Rockstar and Red Bull, which contain high levels of caffeine and ingredients some health authorities describe as potentially dangerous.
Durbin called for an investigation after learning the story of a 14 year-old girl from Maryland, Anais Fournier, who died last December of a cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period.
"Consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases death," Durbin wrote in the letter. "Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth, their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination.
Marketed to young people
Durbin also expressed concern that the beverages were being marketed to young consumers.
The medical profession generally advises young people to avoid energy drinks. In a 2011 report, the American Academy of Pediatrics said it found some of these products harmful.
"There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products," said Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and co-author of the report. "Some kids are drinking energy drinks -- containing large amounts of caffeine -- when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous."
In addition to stimulants like caffeine, energy drinks often have lots of calories. Calories from sweetened beverages increasingly are being blamed for contributing to obesity.