In response to a series of letters from Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials have confirmed that the agency is currently reviewing the safety of energy drinks containing caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants and may require regulatory action if evidence of a health risk is found. Since April, both senators have urged FDA to take action to regulate energy drinks and to investigate the safety of ingredients with stimulant properties in combination with caffeine in energy drinks, particularly as they affect young consumers.

In a recent press release, the senators note that “There is very clearly a lack of understanding about the health effects of energy drinks and their ingredients especially on children and adolescents,” and although they are glad to see that FDA is undertaking a review, more needs to be done and quickly. “For instance, FDA can and should take action now to regulate energy drinks that are marketed as beverages, like Red Bull, which has more than the standard of 71 mg of caffeine per 12oz [the level to] which beverages like Coke and Pepsi are held. I will be calling Commissioner [Margaret] Hamburg for a meeting as soon as possible to review the FDA’s plan,” said Durbin.

In its most recent letter to Durbin and Blumenthal, FDA states that because energy drinks are new products that have raised safety concerns, they warrant investigation. “New products and patterns of use require us to remain vigilant, and we are working to strengthen our understanding of the nature of ‘energy drinks’ and any causal risks to health.”

The specifics of FDA’s review of energy drinks are not outlined in the letter, but according to FDA, the review includes examining adverse event reports and consulting with experts outside FDA to better understand risks posed by energy drinks, additives, and high levels of caffeine consumption in youth. If the review identifies safety concerns, FDA says it will consider regulatory action. Additional information about this topic appears in Issue 462 of this Update.