September 25, 2013

Durbin, Markey, Rockefeller, Blumenthal Call on Energy Drink Companies to Stop Marketing to Children

Also call on companies to commit to labeling, social media, appropriate consumption restrictions

[WASHINGTON, DC] In the latest step in their ongoing investigation into the energy drink industry, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), today called on 17 major energy drink companies to commit to voluntary steps in the marketing and promotion of energy drink products, including not marketing to children nor selling products in K-12 schools. The requests to the companies come after the July Senate Commerce hearing where representatives from Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar Energy discussed adherence to the American Beverage Association Guidance for the Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks, and voluntarily committed to taking steps that include not promoting rapid or excessive consumption of energy drinks, not promoting consumption with alcohol or other drugs, not utilizing social media for these purposes, and not selling or marketing to K-12 schools. In the letters, the Senators also call on the companies to agree to voluntarily label their products with total amounts of caffeine, as well as report adverse events associated with consumption of energy drinks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

Letters were sent to 5-Hour Energy, AMP Energy, Arizona Energy, Celsius, Clif Shots, Crunk Energy, Full Throttle, Jamba Energy, Monster Energy, NOS Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar Energy, Sambazon Energy, Street King Energy, Target/Archer Farms Energy Drinks, Venom Energy, and Xenergy.

 

“Across the board, makers of energy drinks say they do not market their products to children,” said Senator Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader. “But we know that energy drinks are promoted through social media, and that samples are often distributed at places where teens hang out – like sports events, concerts, local parks, and SAT prep courses. The truth is that contrary to industry claims, energy drink companies are using highly effective tools to reach young people and it is working. It’s time for these companies to heed the advice of public health experts across the country and stop telling children and adolescents to ‘pound down’ their products.”

 

“Energy drink makers have been urging customers to consume too much of their products too fast and too young,” said Senator Markey, member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “We need all major energy drink companies to be good corporate actors and agree to these steps to address appropriate marketing and consumption of their products. We need to ensure that kids and parents are protected from the negative health impacts of these products and are not subject to deceptive marketing practices. I urge all energy drink makers to commit to these commonsense and appropriate steps.”

 

“During the hearing I held recently, leading public health experts raised the alarm about potential harmful health risks of energy drink consumption by children and teens,” said Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation “Unfortunately, American youth have been barraged by aggressive marketing messages from energy drink industry leaders. I am glad to join Senators Durbin, Blumenthal, and Markey in asking energy drink companies to put the health and safety of our children and teens first by voluntarily committing to common sense limitations on marketing.”

 

“Energy drink makers must stop their slick pitches to kids, and adopt other reforms,” said Senator Blumenthal, member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “They must take significant strides—more than the baby steps some accepted at our recent Commerce Committee hearing—to end marketing clearly aimed at children and teens. I commend the industry leaders for moving in the right direction, but most companies are continuing ad campaigns that use social media and sports and entertainment celebrities to target kids. Effective voluntary measures can help avoid legislative mandates.”

 

Copies of the letters to the companies can be found here.

 

Additionally, the Senators ask the companies to respond to new questions that include:

  • Will the company commit to putting restrictions in place for any social media sites that would restrict access for users under the age of 18?
  • Will the company restrict any advertising buys or purchases that directly target audiences that are more than 35 percent under the age of 18?
  • Will the company commit to not market its energy drinks as sports drinks?
  • Will the company agree to label any of its products that include caffeine in excess of the FDA’s approved generally recognized as safe standard for caffeine in cola drinks?

 

In April, Senators Markey, Durbin and Blumenthal released the report “What’s All the Buzz About?” that shows inconsistencies in the labeling and classification of energy drinks, extensive marketing to adolescents and young adults through social media and events, and high caffeine levels that exceed what is considered safe in soda by the FDA. 

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