When I have to, I bring my son with me to the supermarket. One little activity that makes it all bearable (for the both of us) is a game we play in which we spot the junkiest of the junk food. This is pretty easy with junk food targeted to children, as it is usually resplendent with all manner of cartoon characters and carnival-like colors. But with junk food geared towards adults, it is a little trickier. I usually bring my son over to the energy drink aisle and show him all manner of drinks in shiny cans and bottles with claw marks and flames. I explain, as I always do, that these are the sorts of things that draw adults in to such products. To him, they are not so appealing…at least not yet.
But these highly caffeinated energy drinks are hugely popular with adults, and teenagers alike, and they are not all that good for you. Recent reports allege that a 14-year-old Maryland girl died for heart arrhythmia after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy, a hugely popular energy drink. A lawsuit was filed against Monster (a suitable name in this case) claiming that the company failed to warn of the potential risks of this drink.
And what are those risks? Most of it has to do with the excessive amounts of caffeine in these popular energy drinks. The amount of caffeine in energy drinks is hard to pin down, because many are marketed as supplements, rather than as foods, allowing them to wiggle around FDA regulations and labeling laws. The FDA does not allow soda to have more than 0.02 percent caffeine, but energy drinks aren’t subject to this limit. When consumed in large quantities, caffeine can pose risks to anyone, especially young people and people with existing heart problems. And as anyone who has had too much coffee knows, caffeine interferes with sleep; it can cause anxiety, raise heartbeats and increase the risk of dehydration. Health and nutritional experts have long been critical of such energy drinks warning of the many dangers associated with even moderate consumption for young people. In 2011, the Journal of Pediatrics published a report titled “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults” warning that the consequences included “palpitations, seizures, strokes, and even sudden death.”
Calls for bans of such energy drinks, along with lawsuits, have gained volume in the last few years, and are fueled by reports and incidents such as the ones mentioned above. How do you feel about such products making it into young hands? Should the companies who make such products be held responsible for the results of the overconsumption, or adverse effects, of their products? Should parents be keeping such items out of the hands on their children?