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November 15th, 2013
05:28 PM ET

Sen. Blumenthal: Companies should label energy drinks, cease marketing to kids

Most American adults are accustomed to the deluge of marketing. But are kids fair game?

A tweet sent to Senator Dick Durbin showed a toy, sold at retailer Target, with the words "Rockstar Energy Drink" slapped across the front. It was made by Ronin Syndicate Toys, an action sport toy manufacturer who has other Rockstar Energy drink products on its site.

"Rockstar always has been committed to not recommended for children, and by that we mean under 12," Rockstar company's chief operations officer Janet Weiner said before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in July.

"Rockstar plainly is using a toy and a ploy to pitch their products to children," said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the senators asking Rockstar to take the brand off the toy.

"These products can be dangerous for children because of the high levels of caffeine, and these kinds of marketing pitches aimed at children are one of the reasons why emergency room visits concerning these energy drinks are skyrocketing," said Blumenthal.

"We're asking this company and all the energy drink manufacturers to stop their pitches and marketing ploys to children using toys, as well as social media and celebrities and athletic stars," said Blumenthal.

And while parents also have an important role to play in these decisions, Blumenthal said the company's are "circumventing parents by using social media, which often are not understood or overseen by parents. And what's more, many of these children can buy these drinks on their own."

There are no requirements that buyers of energy drinks be above a certain age.

"That is tremendously troubling. So better labelling, better restrictions on purchasing is what's needed," he said.

Mother Wendy Crossland said her 14-year-old daughter Anais Fournier died from cardiac failure after consuming two Monster energy drinks in two days, although a heart condition was also involved.

"Unfortunately, this is bigger than her," Crossland told CNN. "She wasn't the first, and unfortunately she hasn't been the last. If you watched any of the kids from high school and middle school, they wore all the shirts and the book bags, it's the thing."

Crossland said her daughter asked for a shirt with an energy drink logo, and she said no.

In a statement to CNN, Monster Energy said, "Despite more than a year of speculation and commentary, no medical or scientific facts have emerged establishing even the slightest connection between Monster Energy and the unfortunate death of Anais Fournier. Monster remains absolutely confident that its Monster energy drink had nothing to do with her death."

"The merchandising and marketing are really creating a monster," said Blumenthal. "High levels of caffeine for children taken regularly can be extraordinarily problematic and dangerous, especially given their growth levels, their maturities, and other problems, heart conditions, that may make them even more susceptible to these problems."

Beyond better labeling, Blumenthal wants companies to "take ownership about some of these health problems and exercise greater responsibility voluntarily."

"Otherwise, the government may have a role to play," added the senator.

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