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Bridget Johnson


February 1, 2013 - 2:46 pm

An article out today in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics studies potential health risks of top-selling energy drinks and advises doctors to ask teenage patients whether they consume energy drinks, to discuss the dangers alone and mixed with alcohol, and to be aware of the symptoms of energy drink consumption.

On Capitol Hill, a trio of Democratic lawmakers immediately saw an opportunity to boost their case for regulatory action.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Rep. Ed Markey fired off a letter to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg urging that the considerations be added to the agency’s ongoing safety review of energy drinks.

Last year, Durbin and Blumenthal pushed the FDA numerous times on the issue, citing a November 2011 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found a tenfold increase in emergency room visits due to energy drinks between 2005 and 2009.

The FDA told the senators in late November that it’s investigating the safety of the popular drinks.

“We write to follow-up on your November 21, 2012, letter summarizing the steps the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will take to strengthen the Agency’s understanding of energy drinks and their health risks, particularly for vulnerable populations, such as children,” the Democrats wrote today. “We commend the FDA for reviewing the safety of energy drinks, including engaging with specialized expertise and relevant professional groups outside FDA and holding public meetings. We look forward to learning details of this safety review and its findings, which may require FDA to take further action.”

They noted the new pediatrics study, which found 35 percent of teens regularly consume energy drinks.

“Energy drinks and products, such as energy shots, gels, gums, powders, and even maple syrup, that contain high levels of caffeine and stimulants, are a new and growing market,” the lawmakers continued. “In light of the emergence of these novel products and evidence that consuming large quantities of caffeine, particularly for young people, can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases death, FDA’s safety review of energy drinks and risks associated with consuming high levels of caffeine could not be more critical to protect the public’s health.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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