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Are energy drinks causing wrongful deaths in Michigan?

Ann Arbor residents who consume energy drinks may become jittery about the recent reports that highly-caffeinated beverages may be to blame for several deaths. Federal officials have recently disclosed that they have received many reports of deaths that may involve the beverages 5-Hour Energy or Monster Energy.

Over the past four years, the highly-caffeinated energy shot 5-Hour Energy has been cited in the death reports of 13 people. Five deaths have been linked to Monster Energy over the past three years.

In addition to the fatalities, 5-Hour Energy has been mentioned in about 90  injury filings with the Food and Drug Administration, and more than 30 of these involve serious or even life-threatening injuries such as heart attacks.

Both companies have denied accusations that their energy beverages are responsible for the injuries and deaths. In a statement, the distributor of 5-Hour Energy explained that its product is safe when it is consumed as directed.

Somewhat oddly, the bottles of 5-Hour Energy do not list how much caffeine is in each bottle. A recent article said each bottle has about 215 milligrams of caffeine, which is the equivalent of roughly two cups of coffee.

Some lawmakers are saying that these incidents should spur increased regulation of energy products. Currently, some products are sold as beverages and regulated as such by the FDA, but others are sold as dietary supplements under completely different ingredient and reporting rules. For example, Red Bull is considered a beverage while Monster is a dietary supplement.

Regardless of the regulatory requirements, these companies may be held accountable and liable if their products are defective or dangerous, resulting in injury or death.

Source: New York Times, "Caffeinated Drink Cited in Reports of 13 Deaths," Barry Meier, Nov. 14, 2012

  • To learn more about wrongful death law in Michigan, please visit our Wrongful Death page.

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