"Monster Energy Drinks Cited in Death Reports," says the headline over a Bloomberg News story. The article notes that shares in the company "fell 14 percent to $45.73 at the close of New York trading, erasing all the gains the stock had made this year." The basis for the story, and presumably for the drop in Monster's stock price: "adverse event" reports to the FDA that Kevin Goldberg, a Silver Spring, Maryland, lawyer who is suing Monster, shared with Bloomberg. Goldberg's lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that a 14-year-old girl named Anais Fournier died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by an overdose of caffeine after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster drinks during one 24-hour period. The Associated Press press reports that Fournier "had an inherited disorder that can weaken blood vessels."
Although Goldberg cites the adverse event reports to back up his allegation that the caffeine content of Monster drinks poses a predictable and unacceptable risk to consumers, they actually suggest the opposite. Bloomberg counts 37 reports involving Monster energy drinks, including six fatalities, since 2004—an average of about four a year. By comparison, the FDA receives thousands of such reports about aspirin each year and hundreds about coffee. And as Bloomberg notes in the 12th paragraph, "the claims…don't prove causation." They show only that someone experienced a symptom after consuming a product, not that the latter caused the former.
How does the caffeine content of Monster drinks compare to those of other widely consumed beverages? According to Energy Fiend, most Monster varieties have 10 milligrams of caffeine per fluid ounce. (The Mayo Clinic concurs.) That's more than twice as much as Mountain Dew (4.5 mg/ounce) but 44 percent less than drip coffee (about 18 mg/ounce) and one-fifth as much as espresso (around 50 mg/ounce). At a concentration of 10mg/ounce, a 24-ounce can of Monster would contain substantially less caffeine than a large (16-ounce) Starbucks coffee. If Monster is recklessly endangering consumers, so is Starbucks.
[Thanks to Mark Lambert and Ron Steiner for the tip.]