India must set up a high level medical panel to study the serious health consequences of consuming energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster as well as several others, and ban these drinks if necessary. Even Nepal’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies had published an order to completely ban the import of energy drinks and flavoured synthetic drinks in the Nepal Gazette on June 17, 2019.
Top brands of energy drinks may often end up leading their consumers to premature deaths. Those who consume energy drinks often may meet the angel of death or Yamraj on a buffalo, like it happened to 41-year-old John Reynolds from California, whose case was reported widely in the international media.
Sipping a can of high-caffeine energy drink on his way to work seemed a good way to help him stay alert for his night shift. John never drank alcohol or smoked, but died in February 2011 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
John’s doctor found out about his habits from his wife. She told his doctor that he consumed just a single energy drink, that too only once a day. The doctor explained to her about how it takes only a single energy drink to throw off the rhythm of the art and cause a condition called arrhythmia which killed John.
This is merely one case involving so called energy drinks, among so many others which have been documented across the world, or are going unreported.
An August 2008 study of the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia found that energy drinks could increase risk of strokes and heart attack. Consuming even one can of an energy drink called Red Bull could lead to blood turning sticky, increasing chances of clotting, the Australian study had mentioned.
According to the study, the caffeine-loaded beverage, popular with university students and adrenaline sport fans to give them “wings”, caused the blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as a stroke.
“One hour after they drank Red Bull, (their blood systems) were no longer normal. They were abnormal like we would expect in a patient with cardiovascular disease,” Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, had told an Australian newspaper.
So called energy drinks have a poor reputation despite being sold across the world. In fact, a leading energy drink brand called Red Bull was actually banned in France and Denmark for ten years. Though the ban in France was eventually lifted, the French health minister is on record doubting if lifting the ban was the right thing to do.
In 2015, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had banned a few variants of Monster, an energy drink sold by US-based Monster Beverage Corporation, and ordered the recall of another energy drink called Restless Energy sold by Pune-based Pushpam Foods and Beverages Pvt Ltd. The FSSAI had also banned a few variants of Cloud 9 sold by Goldwin Healthcare Pvt Ltd, as well as Tzinga, a product by Hector Beverages Pvt Ltd, for compliance issues. However, many of these energy drinks continue to be available in the Indian retail market.
Indian consumer activists have stated that even the term ‘energy drink’, is extremely misleading. An expert called Y Venkat Ramana from the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition has taken care to explain that energy drinks tend to have a greater “psychosomatic” impact, rather than any real physical impact.
“Energy drinks contain chemical compounds like taurine, glucunalactone (a food additive) and guarana in addition to caffeine. These can be toxic and affect renal (kidneys) and circulatory systems if consumed in high quantities,” said Ramana, who is an assistant director in the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition’s Department of Work Physiology & Sports Nutrition.
Ashim Sanyal who heads the Delhi-based Voluntary Organisation in the Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) mentioned, “Since it has such high levels of caffeine, we are demanding the product should be labeled as a caffeinated drink, and not an energy or sports drink. Consumers should at least know what they are drinking.”
Energy drinks manufacturers are in favour of product labelling and laws modelled on lines of the system followed in Australia and New Zealand but activists say that labelling in India needs to be discussed much more. “We believe that in India, product labels say only the convenient truth. They should state the scientific truth and that should be done through a labelling committee. But for that to happen, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has to start functioning first,” said Vasundhra Pramod Deodhar of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, a consumer group and a member of FSSAI.