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October 2012

Regulators Zero-in on
Potentially Dangerous Energy Drinks

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating the rapidly growing energy-drink industry to determine whether or not it is making untrue claims about the health benefits of those drinks.

I am sure you have seen these drinks at your grocery or local convenience store. Living Essentials LLC’s “5 Hour Energy,” for example, is one often seen at Wisconsin checkout counters and its package prominently states that it provides “5 hours of energy with no crash later.” PepsiCo’s “AMP” and Monster Beverage Company’s “Monster” are other familiar names.

Attorney General Schneiderman, who is fast making a name for himself by aggressively investigating alleged illegal Wall Street financial practices, has issued subpoenas to these companies demanding records on the companies’ marketing and advertising practices.

The drinks contain caffeine, a stimulant, equal to between one-half and more than two cups of coffee. Consumed in large quantities, the energy drinks can be potentially dangerous to a person’s heart.

I am probably not the only parent of teenagers who is concerned that children believe these drinks are the same as pop or soda. My son has reached for these drinks several times at checkout and I have had to firmly tell him they are not the same as Gatorade and similar sports drinks.

Late last year, a Maryland 14-year-old girl died after drinking two large Monster energy drinks in a short time and other children have reportedly been injured by consuming such drinks. Pediatrics journal reports that 30 to 50 percent of teens and young adults drink energy drinks and USA Today has reported that cases of caffeine poisoning have increased dramatically with many of the victims being under the age of 19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the amount of caffeine that can be put into pop or soda. However, energy drinks fall outside of the regulations. Therefore, I have responded the old-fashioned way by taking the responsibility to warn my children that energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks and can cause them substantial harm if misused.  

Political-ad Truthfulness Rated

            The fall political season is in full swing and you’ve undoubtedly been deluged with political advertisements. Both sides of the federal and state political aisle are making many political claims, many of which appear questionable at best. But it’s often difficult to sort the truth from fiction.

Fortunately, The Tampa Bay Times is performing a valuable public service by sponsoring Politifact.com, a website that checks candidates’ statements for accuracy. The website rates statements as “true,” “half-true,” “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” and displays ratings on a very easy to understand meter with red, yellow, and green stop light colors. It also provides helpful rating explanations.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publishes many of the results and it is clear from reviewing the ratings that candidates from both political parties have been stretching the truth at times or have made outright false accusations.

I hope this public fact-checking system—even though its own analysis can sometimes be questioned—encourages candidates to be a bit more careful in their statements. Of course, in the end it’s up to you to decide how a candidate’s truthfulness influences your vote.

Have a safe and enjoyable autumn.   



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