Proposal to ban energy drinks is premature
Energy drinks are in the spotlight, thanks to a growing movement to have them banned or regulated.
The city of Chicago is considering a ban that would end the sales of many of the 24-ounce energy drinks, while many schools have banned the sale of the beverages at campuses.
The problem? A study that found that energy drinks can cause insomnia, rapid heartbeats and seizures, and there has been a spike in the number of emergency room visits caused by the beverages — from 10,000 visits in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has linked 92 illnesses and 13 deaths to one brand of drinks, and 40 illnesses and five deaths to another.
At this point, the FDA is still in the investigation stage, and the reports by the agency are intended to warn consumers of a potential danger.
To give the drinks some perspective, energy drinks range from 80 to 240 milligrams of caffeine per serving, while a cup of coffee ranges from 80 to 165 milligrams.
The problem may not stem from the product itself, but how it's used. According to studies, a safe limit of caffeine is 400 milligrams for adults, while children can generally consume 45-85 milligrams per day, depending on the child's weight.
However, many of the reports submitted to the FDA found that people had consumed multiple servings of energy drinks, or had consumed another medication or alcohol while drinking the beverage.
Because most energy drinks contain herbal supplements, the drinks fall under different labeling guidelines that don't require manufacturers to include the amount of caffeine per drink, so many consumers don't know how much caffeine they are actually drinking.
Banning the drinks as Chicago is considering is a premature action, although it makes sense to ban them from schools — the caffeine content is too high for children anyway.
However, manufacturers do need to include the amount of caffeine on the drinks so shoppers can make smart decisions about what they are consuming — and how.