The Food and Drug Administration may consult outside experts to assist in a study of potential health hazards from highly caffeinated energy drinks, the New York Times reports.
The agency mentioned the possibility in a letter to Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both of whom have called for more federal oversight of the drinks. The FDA had previously announced its intention to investigate the products, but the letter is the first public mention of outside experts.
The FDA has recently released reports linking the energy drinks to 18 deaths and more than 150 injuries. The reports don’t specifically cite the energy drinks as a cause of the deaths and injuries, but merely state that they were consumed by the victims.
Still, Durbin and Blumenthal have raised concerns over the fact that emergency room visits involving the drinks increased 10-fold from 2005 through 2009.
And the release of the FDA’s adverse event reports has spotlighted the fact that energy drinks can be classified as dietary supplements, sparing manufacturers the obligation of listing the caffeine amount.
According to the report, the letter from FDA officials stated that an outside review would focus on the possible risks posed by high levels of caffeine to certain groups.
Health Canada, the FDA’s Canadian counterpart, recently imposed limits on caffeine levels in energy drinks in response to recommendations by a similar expert panel.
The FDA letter states: “Areas of particular focus would include such matters as the vulnerability of certain populations to stimulants and the incidence and consequence of excessive consumption.”
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