The New York attorney general has opened an investigation into energy drink manufacturers to discover whether claims made in the drinks’ advertising and marketing about their ingredients and health benefits are false or fraudulent.

Pepsico, makers of AMP, Monster Beverage Corporation and Living Essentials LLC, makers of 5-Hour Energy Drink, are under investigation and have been issued subpoenas for information about the companies’ marketing and advertising.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the New York attorney general’s office is interested in whether the companies have exaggerated the benefits of exotic-sounding ingredients, like botanical extracts and vitamins, and understated the amount of caffeine in the drinks.

Neither Monster nor 5-Hour Energy Drink state how much caffeine they contain on their labels. The 5-Hour Energy website states that a bottle of the drink contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but independent lab analysis showed that it contained nearly double the amount of caffeine in a typical cup of coffee.

Energy drinks are subject to less regulation by the FDA than sodas, and the very term “energy drink” is not defined by any FDA regulation, and is merely a marketing phrase.  In addition, in 2009 the FDA said it was concerned that certain botanical extracts were being added to drinks, which was well beyond the ingredients’ known safe uses.

Energy drink products are among the fastest growing sectors in the beverage industry, with $8.9 billion in sales last year. Although the FDA generally has jurisdiction over food and beverages, state attorneys general are well within their rights to investigate and regulate any product sold within their borders. If the energy drink makers are found to have violated New York state laws, they could be subject to fines and be forced to change their marketing and packaging.

Image by ashley rose,