Energy drink marketing practices under scrutiny in Senate hearings
By Jay Keller
Executives from four companies that manufacture, market and distribute “energy drinks” will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify in a hearing about the impact of direct marketing of the products to youth.
The efforts, led by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), seek to hear more from the makers of Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull and 5-hour Energy regarding concerns expressed by pediatricians and other public health experts about the health risks energy drinks could pose to children and teenagers.
The four “energy drink” companies did not comment publicly or make any official statements prior to Wednesday’s hearings.
An investigation was launched and hearings were scheduled after the American Medical Association (AMA) called for a temporary ban on marketing energy drinks to children and teens on June 19.
The AMA voted to support a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children and teens under the age of 18 based on the rising evidence from medical experts and independent panels.
Shortly following the AMA statement, Sen. Rockefeller sent letters to Monster Beverage Corporation, Rockstar, Red Bull North America and Living Essentials, the makers of 5-hour Energy, requesting a deeper look into marketing practices and any efforts to market “energy drinks” to children and teens.
The hearings will focus on the practices energy companies are using to reach kids, like promoting young teen athletes and featuring them on social media sites, while exploring whether or not marketing strategies take into account health concerns raised by public health experts about the dangers of youth consumption of ”energy drinks.”
“Once again, top public health experts are raising concerns about children and young adults consuming energy drinks,” Sen. Rockefeller said in a statement last June shortly after the AMA announcement.
“We aren’t doing a good enough job of helping our children make healthy choices,” Rockefeller added.
Rockefeller also said he was concerned that some industry tactics may be influencing impressionable children and that the AMA’S call for a ban should be a “wake-up call.”
“I am grateful to Senator Blumenthal for his ongoing hard work to protect the health of our children, and to bring a better understanding to the energy drink industry.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, another public supporter of the ban, probed into the marketing practices this past April with the help of two other Senate Democrats.
“I have worked with Senator Durbin and Congressman Markey to shine a spotlight on energy drink marketing practices, and I look forward to continuing to address this issue as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee,” Blumenthal said in June.
Also available to Senators during the hearing will be evidence uncovered in the April report from Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Blumenthal and Rockefeller showing teens were being targeted by the marketing practices of “energy drink” makers.