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Energy drink consumers need information

Nicolas Molina , Opinion Writer
November 14, 2013
Filed under Opinion

More than two years ago, Cory Terry, 33, died while shooting hoops in a middle school basketball court after downing a can of the popular energy drink Red Bull, according to New York Daily News writer Oren Yaniv.

Now, his family is attempting to file an $88 million lawsuit, Yaniv said.

“The family’s lawyer, Ilya Novofastovsky, said Red Bull has, ‘extra stimulants that make it different than a cup of coffee,’ and ‘are more dangerous than what Red Bull lets on,’” according to Time wrtier Charlotte Alter.

Terry’s mother said he drank Red Bull all the time since it stimulated him. Terry allegedly had no other health problems, according to Yaniv.

However, the constant consumption of energy drinks that deliver caffeine in much higher doses than a regular cup of coffee will undoubtedly affect the heart in a negative way. This is made worse when the user does strenuous activity making the heart pump dangerously faster than it did after consuming the beverage.

When the problem is narrowed down, the person who has to take the most responsibility is the one who is consuming these beverages in such high doses.

Such a massive lawsuit isn’t entirely necessary. If Terry drank Red Bull only in moderation, with the knowledge of what such an excess of caffeine does to the heart, his death could’ve been avoided.

At least nine other deaths due to drinking energy drinks have been cited in the lawsuit, Yaniv said.

Though it’s the individual’s responsibility that’s most important, it’s also the responsibility of the companies that market these drinks to make sure their consumers know the specific health risks that can come about from excessive consumption.

Currently, companies like Monster and Red Bull have aggressive names and use extreme sports and athletes in their advertisements to attract a predominately young audience, usually male, according to Newsday writer Patrick Crowley.

One extreme case of sponsorship by Red Bull was last year, when the Austrian-based company backed the world’s highest parachute jump done from an altitude of 128,100 feet by Austrian pilot Felix Baumgartner, said Wall Street Journal writer Robert Hotz.

Clearly, these clever marketing techniques and publicity stunts have been worth the millions put into them, as not only teens, but also more adults are regularly drinking these products.

Currently, tiny labels are stamped onto many cans listing only the basics of what a regular consumer should be aware of, Crowley said. Most companies only identify that the drinks aren’t recommended for small children, pregnant women or people who are especially at risk when drinking caffeinated beverages, he said.

At the FDA, more research is currently being undertaken in order to accurately understand the extent in which caffeinated drinks affect the public, Yaniv said. The Division of Dietary Supplement Programs in the FDA is attempting the brunt of the research with its director, Dr. Daniel Fabricant, according to Yaniv.

“If we find that something is dangerous to consumers, we’ll certainly take action,” Dr. Fabricant said, according to Yaniv.

Much more needs to be done, and having larger labels with health warnings as specified by the Surgeon General is only the start of a larger solution. Informing the public about the dangers the overconsumption of energy drinks causes is crucial. Using ads and PSAs, as well as encouraging more healthy alternatives, is ultimately one of the best methods for preventing future deaths and even our nation’s ever-increasing problem with obesity rates.

In the end, it’s both the actions of the individual and the energy drink company’s increased pressure on consumers that are directly responsible for any more deaths and resulting lawsuits.