Energy drinks are emerging as a public health threat and are increasingly consumed by youth internationally. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, sugar, and novel ingredients, and are often marketed through youth-oriented media and venues. We review these practices and the current inconsistent state of labeling. We also examine international support for regulation of these products, including a survey showing that 85 per cent of United States parents agreed that regulations requiring caffeine content disclosure and warning labels on energy drinks are warranted. We then examine the regulatory structure for energy drinks in the United States, analyzing legal and self-regulatory strategies to protect consumers, especially youth, from these potentially dangerous products. Recommended government interventions include revised labeling requirements, addressing problematic ingredients, and enacting retail restrictions. We conclude by identifying areas for future research.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
References and Notes
Brownell, K.D. et al (2009) The public health economic benefits of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. New England Journal of Medicine 361 (16): 1599–1605.
PR Newswire. (2011) Energy drink industry report shows strong growth. 20 December, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/energy-drink-industry-report-shows-strong-growth-135915263.html, accessed 26 September 2012.
BEVNET. (2011) Morgan Stanley report: Energy drinks and RTD teas perform well in year-over-year comparison. 8 December, http://www.bevnet.com/news/2011/morgan-stanley-report-energy-drinks-and-rtd-teas-perform-well-in-year-over-year-comparison, accessed 26 September 2012.
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. (2011) Sugary drink FACTS: Evaluating sugary drink nutrition and marketing to youth, http://www.sugarydrinkfacts.org/resources/SugaryDrinkFACTS_Report.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
Hansen Bev. Co. v. Innovation Ventures, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127605 (S.D. Cal. 22 December, 2009).
Park, S., Blanck, H.M., Sherry, B., Brener, N. and O'Toole, T. (2012) Factors associated with sugar-sweetened beverage intake among united states high school students. Journal of Nutrition 142 (2): 306–312.
Simon, M. and Mosher, J. (2007) Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix. California: Marin Institute.
Seifert, S.M., Schaechter, J.L., Hershorin, E.R. and Lipshultz, S.E. (2011) Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics 127 (3): 511–528.
Zenith International. (2007) US overtakes Thailand as world leader in energy drinks, http://www.zenithinternational.com/news/press_release_detail.asp?id=206, accessed 26 September 2012.
Reissig, C.J., Strain, E.C. and Griffiths, R.R. (2009) Caffeinated energy drinks – A growing problem. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 99 (1–3): 1–10.
Hansen Bev. Co. v. Innovation Ventures, LLC, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76243 (S.D. Cal. 28 September, 2008).
(2011) Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics 127 (6): 1182–1189.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2011) The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks. 22 November, Rockville, MD.
WA State Liquor Control Board. (2010) The mix with dangerous risks: Energy drinks and alcohol, http://liq.wa.gov/education/alcohol-energy-drinks, accessed 26 September 2012.
Gunja, N. and Brown, J.A. (2012) Energy drinks: Health risks and toxicity. Medical Journal of Australia 196 (1): 46–49.
FDA. (2009) Draft guidance for industry: Factors that distinguish liquid dietary supplements from beverages, considerations regarding novel ingredients, and labeling for beverages and other conventional foods, http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/DietarySupplements/ucm196903.htm, accessed 2 February 2013.
21 U.S.C. 343(q)(5)(F).
ABA. Guidance for the responsible labeling and marketing of energy drinks. American Beverage Association, http://www.ameribev.org/files/339_Energy%20Drink%20Guidelines%20%28final%29.pdf, accessed 2 February 2013.
21 U.S.C. 321(s).
United States v. An Article of Food, Coco Rico, 752 F.2d 11 (1st Cir. 1985).
Pomeranz, J.L. (2011) Advanced policy options to regulate sugar-sweetened beverages to support public health. Journal of Public Health Policy 33 (1): 75–88.
Welsh, J.A., Sharma, A.L.G. and Vos, M.B. (2011) Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94 (3): 726–734.
CDC. (2011) Usual sodium intakes compared with current dietary guidelines – United States, 2005–2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, 21 October, 60 (41): 1413–1417.
Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011) Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics 127 (6): 1182–1189.
Higgins, J.P., Tuttle, T.D. and Higgins, C.L. (2010) Energy beverages: Content and safety. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 85 (11): 1033–1041.
MedlinePlus. (2011) Panax Ginseng. US National Library of Medicine, 11 August, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1000.html.
Zoller Labs., LLC v. NBTY, Inc., 111 Fed. Appx. 978 (10th Cir. 2004).
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. (2012) Adolescent-targeted television advertising for energy drinks. February, www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/advertising/TVadvertising_EnergyDrinks_2010.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
comScore. Site Detail Report. Average of monthly unique visitors from October to December, 2011.
Weise, E. (2012) Petition calls for FDA to regulate energy drinks. USA Today, 22 October, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-21-energy-drinks_N.htm, accessed 26 September 2012.
Medical News Today. (2004) French ban on Red Bull (drink) upheld by European court. 8 February, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/5753.php, accessed 26 September 2012.
Palmer, D. (2008) France reluctantly lifts ban on Red Bull. Australian Food News. 17 July, http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2008/07/17/france-reluctantly-lifts-ban-on-red-bull.html, accessed 26 September 2012.
Health Canada. (2011) Health Canada's proposed approach to managing caffeinated energy drinks, http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/legislation/pol/energy-drinks-boissons-energisantes-eng.ph, accessed 26 September 2012.
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. (2012) Parents’ attitudes about energy drinks. June, http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/policy/SSBtaxes/SSB_Parent_Attitudes_Energy_Drinks.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
Letter to the FDA from Senators Durbin and Blumenthal. 11 September 2012, http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=fe44b78e-32ae-41a0-8a61-2ddf14ab95d1, accessed 26 September 2012.
21 U.S.C. §301 et seq.
Hutchinson Ice Cream Co. v. Iowa, 242 U.S. 153, (1916).
21 C.F.R. §184.1854 et seq.
21 C.F.R. §182.1180.
FDA. (1978) Database of Select Committee on GRAS Substances Reviews: Caffeine. Report No. 89. I.D. code 58-08-2, http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=scogsListing&id=42, accessed 26 September 2012
62 Federal Register 49826 (23 September 1997).
21 C.F.R. §340.50.
American Law Institute. (1998) Restatement 3d of Torts: Products Liability §2 Categories of Product Defect.
Connecticut Attorney General's Office. (2007) Attorney general, DCP Commissioner announce agreement banishing ‘cocaine’ drink from CT stores. 7 May, http://www.ct.gov/AG/cwp/view.asp?A=2788&Q=379504.
Schwartz, N.D. (2012) New inquiry into energy drink firms. The New York Times, 29 August.
Epstein, R.J. (2010) Under 19? Suffolk bill could ban Red Bull. Newsday. 8 December, http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/under-19-suffolk-bill-could-ban-red-bull-1.2527343.
OR HB 3222 (2010).
Montague-Jones, G. (2011) Red Bull denies child marketing claims in new study. BeverageDaily.com. 3 June, http://www.beveragedaily.com/content/view/print/378916, accessed 26 September 2012.
ABA. (2011) Beverage industry responds to latest Rudd Report, http://www.ameribev.org/files/news/253_ABA%20responds%20to%Rudd%20Report.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
FTC. (2008) Self-regulation in the alcohol industry: Report of the Federal Trade Commission, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2008/06/080626alcoholreport.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2003) Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington DC: National Academies Press.
Rowe, G.S. et al (2006) A communication from the Chief Legal Officers of the following states: AZ, CT, DE, HI, ID, IL, IA, ME, MD, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, RI, UT, VT, WA, WY. RE: Alcohol Reports: Paperwork comment FTC File No. P064505, 8 May, http://www.ftc.gov/os/comments/alcoholmanufacadstudy/522852-01287.pdf, accessed 26 September 2012.
Globally, energy drinks pose a risk to consumers, from caffeine and other ingredients. There appears to be support for regulation of these drinks.
About this article
Cite this article
Pomeranz, J., Munsell, C. & Harris, J. Energy drinks: An emerging public health hazard for youth. J Public Health Pol 34, 254–271 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/jphp.2013.6
- child and adolescent health
- energy drinks