Senate to Focus on Energy Drink Danger

Health experts from Connecticut will go head-to-head with the top energy-drink companies.

Both sides will take part in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

“People aren't drinking these for nutrition, they're using them as a drug,” Dr. Mary Scheimann, of Guilford, said.

She said she doesn’t let her four children consume these drinks.

“I think they can be used in very dangerous ways and I do very much feel they should be scrutinized,” Scheimann said.

She is not alone.

These drinks will be the focus of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday in Washington organized by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

A panel of nutrition experts and doctors will question executives from Rockstar, Monster and Red Bull about the potential health risks energy drinks pose to kids.

“Are they harmful to kids?,” asked Dr. Deb Kennedy, a Guilford based nutritional biochemist. “They're a cocktail of stimulants in their growing bodies where they're not supposed to have caffeine.”

Dr. Kennedy has already been a part of the conversation, saying in a newsletter recently that children have died from energy drinks.

Monster threatened to sue her. She won’t be a part of the panel but said the marketing to children is unacceptable and hopes something positive will come from this.

“I'm hoping that this is the beginning of perhaps creating a law that says this prohibited to the sale of minors just like alcohol,” Dr. Kennedy said.

Neither Monster nor Red Bull responded to NBC Connecticut Tuesday for comment.

In the past, the companies have said they do not market to children, who they define as younger than 12.

Dr. Scheimann said she worries how much the energy drinks market to her four kids.

“They have this crowd enthralled to this whole energy drink culture,” Scheimann said.

A beverage industry lobbying group says doctors have not been able to find a definite link between a child’s health and energy drinks.

Next month, the Institute of Medicine plans to take a closer look at the possible effects.

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