The regulation of energy drink supplements by government agencies and industry groups, provides the context for a debate over whether or not the federal nutrition laws should be amended to ban non-prescription sale of three or more cans of energy drink in any given month. This provision will have implications for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
Energy Drinks and Their Regulation
A wide range of energy drinks are available in the United States and these products vary in their contents. The best energy drinks typically contain caffeine and other stimulants. The amount of caffeine varies from product to product, protein powders and meal replacements are also classified as energy drinks by some government agencies. Energy drinks can be packed with sugar and other ingredients that have a high calorie content. In addition, many energy drink manufacturers promote their products as sports supplements or a cure for a specific ailment.
The Value of Caffeine for Consumers
In the United States, soft energy drinks have been deemed to be a food product from which foods may not be marketed to children. Soft drinks have been defined as products containing at least two per cent by weight of glucose or dextrose, or containing any other carbohydrates. However, if a manufacturer is making functional claims about their product, like that it will give you an edge during an athletic event, it may be classed as a food or dairy product.
If the claims are health related (e.g. they will help you lose weight), they may be classified as drugs. In the United States, the FDA regulates manufactures that make health claims about their product and classifies them as foods or drugs. To date, caffeine is exempted from approval for use in dietary supplements by the FDA.
Energy Drinks and the Food Guide Pyramid
The federal government has retained an orange box warning on energy drinks. The government has defined these products as not healthy and have linked them to several health problems, including heart attacks. Energy drinks are high in calories and caffeine which may both contribute to weight gain. The FDA has suggested that manufacturers change the name of their products to coffee, tea or cola if they want them to be marketed as foods.
However, energy drink manufacturers have challenged this ruling and continue to use their own names for their product. Energy drinks have been subjected to one tax and several bans in several states because of their high caffeine content. The government has also attempted to restrict the sale of energy drinks to children, especially on school premises.