Published November 15, 2012
The founder and CEO of 5-Hour Energy is vehemently denying any suggestion that his company’s popular drink is responsible for 13 deaths in the past four years, following a report the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking into the claims.
The idea that the drink is to blame for killing anyone is like comparing “drinking a bottle of water today, and then thousands of people died the next day; that somehow it’s linked,” said 5-Hour Energy CEO Manoj Bhargava. “It’s just false.”
The reports were first detailed by The New York Times Wednesday, and Bhargava said he would not expect this from the Times.
“They should not be making this mistake,” Bhargava told Fox News, adding that the people making these claims were “just after some money.”
The news follows the FDA's disclosure last month that it is investigating reports of five deaths that may be related to Monster Beverage's namesake drinks.
The highly caffeinated beverages are the fastest-growing type of soft drink in the United States, with sales increasing 17 percent last year to about $9 billion, according to Beverage Digest.
Bhargava said 5-hour Energy drink contains a little less than 200 milligrams of caffeine.
A recent Consumer Reports study found 11 of 27 top-selling energy drinks in the U.S. do not specify the amount of caffeine in their beverages.
Of the 16 drinks that did list a specific caffeine amount, five had more caffeine per serving than was listed and the average amount was more than 20 percent.
Caffeine levels in the drinks tested ranged from about 6 milligrams per serving for 5-Hour Energy Decaf, to 242 milligrams for 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength, the report found.
“Caffeine is a good thing,” Bhargava said. “The only things that we get about caffeine is from reporters, who really have no clue what caffeine does.”
FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said that 5-hour Energy, sold by Living Essentials, has been mentioned in some 90 FDA filings since 2009, including more than 30 that involved serious or life-threatening events like heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion, the New York Times reported.
The Times said another federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported late last year that more than 13,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were associated with energy drinks alone.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, said many of these drinks have stimulants, which can increase your heart rate, increase your blood pressure and stimulate your central nervous system.
In addition, Alvarez said he was concerned with young people using these products.
"It interferes with their sleep patterns, which is very important to maintain – especially for kids who are in school," Alvarez said. "I’m very worried about young athletes using these energy drinks, as well. Caffeine is a diuretic and makes you dehydrated. When your body is dehydrated, it can alter your electrolytes, ultimately putting a young heart at risk for an arrhythmia."
Elaine Lutz, spokeswoman for Living Essentials, the company that distributes 5-hour Energy, said in a statement that the product "is not an energy drink" (the so-called shot comes in a bottle that holds less than 2 ounces).
"Living Essentials," the statement went on, "takes reports of any potential adverse event tied to our products very seriously. We fully comply with all of our reporting requirements."
The company says it is "unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5-hour Energy."
Currently the FDA does not publicly disclose adverse event filings about dietary supplements, including energy shot drinks.
Reuters contributed to this article.