The Food and Drug Administration just released some reports that make drinking Red Bull seem like an even worse idea than it already did.
In 21 reports filed since 2004, the F.D.A. lists what it calls “adverse events” associated with America’s top selling energy drink, including heart problems and vomiting. Oh yeah, and a few deaths, too.
The reports are careful to note that by disclosing Red Bull as a possible factor in the “events,” they’re not definitively concluding that the drink was, in fact, the cause. Although it doesn’t seem likely there would be reports at all if some link hadn’t been established.
The reports come on the heels of similar disclosures about 5-Hour Energy, Monster and Rockstar, which face tighter regulations because they’re marketed as dietary supplements, whereas Red Bull is marketed as a beverage. Since it’s a beverage, Red Bull isn’t required to tell the F.D.A. any injury reports related to its product.
Barry Meier at the New York Times suggested that the fatalities and injuries associated with energy drinks (of both the “supplement” and “beverage” varieties) are actually much more common than indicated in the F.D.A. reports, citing a federal study which listed over 13,000 emergency room visits associated with energy drinks in 2009 alone. That’s a big jump from the 168 total from the F.D.A.
Maybe the Red Bull commercials saying the product gives you wings were just really unclear warnings about the risk of death. Maybe.