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ENERGY DRINKS ALERT

Health Minister urges citizens to refrain from drinking 'supplement' following 13 suspected deaths in the US

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

HEALTH Minister Dr Fuad Khan is urging citizens to "refrain" from consuming energy drinks.

He issued the caution following recent reports that shot-sized supplement 5-Hour Energy is under investigation by the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possible links to 13 deaths in the past four years.

A review from the New York Times found that 5-Hour Energy was named 90 times in FDA reports.

Thirty of the reports made to the FDA concerning 5-Hour Energy involved serious and occasionally life-threatening consumer injuries.

The news of the probe into 5-Hour Energy comes one month after the FDA announced that an investigation had been launched into reports that Monster Energy drinks may be connected with five deaths.

One of those five deaths being investigated by the FDA is that of 14-year-old Anais Fournier.

Fournier, from Maryland, USA, died of a heart attack from caffeine toxicity after drinking two cans of Monster energy drinks, and her parents are suing the company.

Despite the investigations into 18 deaths possibly related to energy drinks, Khan said there was not much the government could do at this time but "educate" citizens.

"The most we can do is educate people on the dangers of energy drinks, especially when they are mixed with alcohol," Khan told the Express in a telephone interview yesterday.

"We cannot recall the drinks. Unless there is an actual recall of the products we cannot recall anything just because enquiries are going on," he said.

Khan said the best advice he had to give citizens was to refrain from consuming energy drinks.

"The best advice I can give is for citizens to refrain from drinking them (energy drinks), especially in large quantities because of the concentration of caffeine," Khan said.

"The use of energy drinks is very dangerous as there is a very high content of caffeine in a small volume," he said.

In addition to the caffeine content of energy drinks, which could be a much as the equivalent of ten cups of coffee, Khan also warned about their high levels of sugar.

Khan said the Health Ministry has already launched a campaign against the use of energy drinks and said the recent developments in relation to 5-Hour Energy would bring the health risks back on the front burner.

A representative from Bhagan's Drugs, who requested anonymity, last night described 5-Hour Energy as one of their "popular products".

Bhagan's Drugs was out of stock of the supplement when the Express called yesterday.

The representative for Bhagan's Drugs said 5-Hour Energy had no local distributor, but was purchased from "suitcase traders".

According to a report from The Guardian in the United Kingdom, "Living Essentials LLC, the distributor of 5-hour Energy, said in a statement it was unaware of any deaths proven to be caused by the product, which by its calculations contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee".

In addition to caffeine, the product also combines high levels of Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 and a number of other substances meant to increase energy including citicoline, phenylalanine and taurine.

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