Monster defends its drinks’ safety

Monster Beverage has defended the safety of its products, brushing off accusations that its energy drinks put consumers at risk.

The company’s shares fell 12 per cent in after-hours trading on Wednesday, as Monster reported third-quarter results that were weaker than expected. Monster’s shares have dropped more than 20 per cent in the last month following allegations that its highly caffeinated products were associated with five deaths since 2004.

“We are not aware of a single instance anywhere in the world in which Monster energy drinks have caused anyone’s death,” said Rodney Sacks, chief executive of Monster, on a conference call.

Mr Sacks said that Monster’s caffeine content is similar to that of coffee brewed in shops. He also argued that the other stimulants in the drinks would still be considered safe if Monster chose for its products to be regulated as beverages by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“The amount of caffeine per ounce in other major energy drinks on the market is comparable to or higher than the amount in Monster,” Mr Sacks said. “There is absolutely no basis for singling out Monster in this regard.”

The remarks were the first public statement from Monster since the allegations about its products surfaced.

The FDA said last month that it was looking into reports that Monster, which contains up to 10 times more caffeine than regular soft drinks, was responsible for deaths. The agency is also studying the health effects of caffeine and considering new guidelines on regulating dietary supplements such as Monster, which are regulated more loosely than food and beverages.

Monster is facing a lawsuit from the family of a teenager, Anais Fournier, who died after consuming two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks and going into cardiac arrest.

Mr Sacks denied that Ms Fournier’s death was related to Monster, arguing that her autopsy report indicated that she had an existing heart condition.

“We will defend ourselves vigorously against the lawsuit,” Mr Sacks said.

Monster’s third quarter net income rose 4.5 per cent year-on-year to $86.1m, or 47 cents a share, as net sales increased by 14.2 per cent to $541.9m. The company’s profit margins narrowed as it offered discounts to boost sales.

Energy drinks were a $9bn market in the US last year and have outpaced the slumping carbonated soft drinks category.

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