By BARRY MEIER New York Times
In the latest action aimed at the energy drink industry, the top lawyer for the city of San Francisco has asked one major producer to provide evidence that supports the advertising and marketing claims it made to adolescents for its highly caffeinated drinks.
In a letter sent late Wednesday to Monster Beverage, the city attorney of San Francisco, Dennis J. Herrera, told the company to substantiate its claim that large daily quantities of Monster Energy were safe for adolescents and adults.
Mr. Herrera also told Monster, a publicly traded company, to produce support for its promotional slogans, like one that claims that consumers of Monster Energy “can never get too much of a good thing!”
In taking the action, Mr. Herrera cited a section of a California state law that makes it illegal for a company to make false or misleading advertising claims that purport to be based on fact or clinical data.
In a statement, Monster Beverage said: “The company can document the legal basis by which its products are properly labeled dietary supplements, and third party scientific documentation substantiates their safety.”
The energy drink industry and Monster Beverage in particular has come under intensifying scrutiny since last week after disclosures that the Food and Drug Administration had received reports that the deaths of five people since 2009 may be linked to Monster Energy drinks.
The company has repeatedly disputed any suggestion that its drinks pose a risk. The F.D.A., which said it was looking into the episodes, added that the receipt of a death or injury filing associated with a product did not mean that it was responsible.
Last week, two Democratic lawmakers, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, sent the latest of several letters to the F.D.A. commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, urging the agency to take action on energy drinks.
The agency has taken the stance that there is insufficient data to take additional action on energy drinks. Both Democratic lawmakers have been critical of that position.
The New York State attorney general is investigating the practices of several producers.
In his letter Wednesday, Mr. Herrera asserted that Monster Beverage, through its advertising and marketing claims, had encouraged “unsafe and irresponsible consumption of its products.”
Monster Energy drinks do not disclose caffeine levels. But product labels advise against drinking more than three of the 16-ounce cans or two of the 24-ounce cans daily, amounts that each contain a total of 480 milligrams of caffeine.
The F.D.A. has suggested that 400 milligrams of caffeine a day from all sources is safe for adults, although many medical experts believe that adults can safely consume more. There is far less data about safe caffeine levels for teenagers.