New York attorney general subpoenas energy-drink companies

Ryan Rottkamp, 15, drinks a Monster Energy drink Ryan Rottkamp, 15, drinks a Monster Energy drink in West Babylon. (Feb. 3, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday

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ALBANY - High-octane energy drinks including 5-Hour Energy and Monster that promise healthy bursts of energy are getting pulled over in New York.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas this summer to the drinks' makers, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't yet been made public.

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Earlier this month, Monster Beverage Corp. disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that an attorney general had sent it a subpoena. The Corona, Calif.-based company didn't reveal which state it was, but the person familiar with the inquiry said it was New York.

The maker of the ubiquitous 5-Hour Energy shots, Living Essentials LLC, disclosed the probe to investors in a recent private report, the person said. The person also said subpoenas were sent to PepsiCo Inc., which makes AMP energy drinks, in the investigation first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The probe is examining how the drinks -- often loaded with caffeine, sugar and what critics say is a mostly useless amount of vitamin B -- are made and marketed at sports events and sometimes in bars. If consumed before alcohol, this can lead to a dizzying combination of alcohol impairment without the sedative effect that slows drinkers down and lets them know they aren't alert enough to drive. "This has been a slimy sector of the beverage industry almost since the beginning," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group. "It's just kind of playing off peoples' presumptions that they provide a benefit."

The amount of caffeine varies widely, from about half a cup of coffee to twice the amount or more of a cup of coffee. But Jacobson notes the danger for the young consumers in particular, who may mistake energy drinks for soda and consume large quantities at once.

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The caffeine is strictly limited in soda by the Food and Drug Administration, but energy drinks aren't listed as soda.

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