Caffeine levels should be reduced in energy drinks because of health risks, particularly to children, doctors wrote the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Energy drinks should have no more caffeine than sodas and companies should be required to list caffeine content on labels, said the letter, signed by 18 doctors from centers that included Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The correspondence was sent yesterday to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Products including Monster Beverage Corp.’s signature energy drink and Living Essentials LLC’s 5-Hour Energy have been linked to reports of deaths, increased heart rate and abdominal pain, though no direct causation has been proven by regulators. The FDA, which didn’t immediately respond to the letter, said in November it was investigating whether energy drinks are dangerous and may need more regulation.

 “There is neither sufficient evidence of safety nor a consensus of scientific opinion to conclude that the high levels of added caffeine in energy drinks are safe under the conditions of their intended use,” the doctors wrote.

High levels of caffeine are linked in children and adolescents to heart complications, seizures and obesity, the doctors wrote.

Caffeine in energy drinks often ranges from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams a serving, the FDA has said. Soda typically can have as many as 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces and be considered safe by the FDA.

Different standard

Democratic Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, urged the FDA in December to convene an expert panel early this year to discuss the effects of consumers’ caffeine consumption. Durbin began pushing the FDA almost a year ago to more strictly regulate energy drinks.

Some energy drinks adhere to different standards than soda because they are considered dietary supplements, not food.

 “Available scientific evidence demonstrates a robust correlation between the caffeine levels in energy drinks and adverse health and safety consequences, particularly among children, adolescents, and young adults,” the doctors wrote.

The FDA said in November it’s employing the help of outside advisers in a review of the caffeinated drinks.

Based on the review, the agency may move to regulate the products’ use or labeling. The FDA said it will also look into whether the ingredients in addition to caffeine are safe. The agency said it hadn’t seen problems with two main additives, taurine and guarana.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access