WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing on July 31 titled, "Energy Drinks: Exploring Concerns About Marketing to Youth." Its mission was to explore the concerns of public health experts about the risks energy drinks could pose to children and teenagers and whether the companies that make them are marketing them appropriately.
Among those testifying were executives from Red Bull North America Inc., Rockstar Inc. and Monster Beverage Corp. and Jennifer Harris, Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity director of marketing initiatives and senior research scientist.
The hearing followed letters sent last month by Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to the leading energy drink makers, asking the companies to detail their marketing practices to children and teenagers.
Sens. Rockefeller, Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) challenged the energy drink companies' marketing practices and presented data showing a surge in emergency room visits from consumption of the highly caffeinated products.
The beverage company executives defended their energy drinks, claiming they target 18- to 34-year-oldsand that their companies have not marketed and will not market the drinks to children.
They testified that their products have been proven safe and presented research to substantiate their claims. The energy drink executives also pointed out that their labels clearly state the caffeine content in their drinks and that warning labels advise consumers that the drinks are not recommended for children.
Representing the concerns of health officials, Harris testified that many brands appear to have increased marketing in venues where teens are likely to view them and advised that regulations to limit the sales and marketing of energy drinks to children under 18 may be warranted.