Monster Rebrands As A ‘Drink’ Instead Of A ‘Dietary Supplement’ As Energy Products Face Scrutiny

As public health advocates and federal regulators increasingly turn their attention to dangerous energy drink products, one of the industry’s most popular brands — Monster — is relabeling itself as an energy “drink” instead of a “dietary supplement,” the Denver Post reports.

Dietary supplement manufacturers have greater leeway over what types of ingredients they can include in their products, but also face more stringent reporting requirements when it comes to possible adverse effects on consumers. While it is unclear whether or not the labeling change — and the corresponding changes in the regulations Monster is subject to — will lead the company to drop controversial caffeine-like ingredients like taurine from its drinks, the decision reflects lawmakers’ recent inquiries into energy product safety:

Generally speaking, companies have more leeway in the ingredients they can add to dietary supplements. With products considered to be food or drinks, companies can only use ingredients that are approved food additives or that are “generally recognized as safe,” said Elizabeth Campbell, a senior adviser at EAS Consulting Group, which specializes in FDA regulatory matters.

Among the issues lawmakers have raised over energy drinks is that they sometimes contain little-known ingredients, such as the taurine used in some Monster drinks. Campbell, who previously worked at the FDA for 35 years, said taurine is not approved for use in food and is not listed in the database of notifications for “generally recognized as safe” ingredients. Companies are responsible for submitting their own research to show an ingredient is “generally recognized as safe.”

A spokesman for Monster Beverage was not able to confirm the report in Beverage Digest or whether the Corona, Calif., company would remove any ingredients as a result of any possible labeling changes. […]

Notably, companies that make dietary supplements are required to report incidents of adverse effects to the FDA while food makers are not. A spokeswoman for the FDA did not immediately know how many, if any, reports of adverse effects Monster had made to the agency.

The number of energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled to a staggering 20,000 between 2007 and 2011. Excess caffeine in easily-available beverages first came under the public spotlight when consumption of the alcoholic malt beverage and energy drink Four Loko started sending teenagers to the hospital, eventually leading the company to drop caffeine from its products.