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Monster Beverages Sues SF City Attny; Continues to Fight Regulation

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By William Peacock, Esq. on May 01, 2013 1:01 PM

Respect the hustle.

Anyone remember when energy drinks became a "thing"? Way back in my college days, I tasted my first Monster at a sponsored event at UC Davis. It was an odd beverage, overly-carbonated with a too-sweet sour apple flavor. I choked it down quickly (why waste a free drink, after all?). The energy rush carried me through the day's festivities, including turns conquering the climbing wall.

To this day, I still consume energy drinks, though I've long since made the switch to diet. (Diet was far easier to chug during a pre-finals cram session.) Monster's college marketing paid off, for me and likely thousands of other students. And few would take issue with a company marketing a safe (when consumed in moderation) and legal product to college kids.

What about marketing that same product to children?

That seems to be San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's biggest issue with the drink, reports the San Francisco Gate. He highlighted the "Monster's Army" marketing website, dedicated to extreme sports, that markets to children as young as 6-years-old. An 11-year-old on the site is referred to as a "Monster Army Major" and 6-year-old is a "Reserve."

The City Attorney's office has been investigating Monster for months now, and has negotiated with the company to try to change their marketing and possibly reformulate the beverage to contain less caffeine.

Monster, for their part, points out that a Starbucks Grande (16oz) coffee has more than twice the caffeine of a 16oz Monster. Herrera counters by pointing out that Starbucks isn't advertising their overly-sweet coffee variations directly to children.

Though the negotiations were occurring behind closed doors, we'd venture a guess that they didn't go well. Monster filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, arguing, amongst other things, undue burdens on interstate commerce and violations of constitutionally-protected commercial speech.

We'd question whether the matter is ripe for adjudication. The City of SF hasn't actually regulated anything yet -- their attorney has simply sent a few letters and engaged in discussions of ways to alleviate their concerns. Maybe the hope is that a big, scary lawsuit will cause Dennis Herrera to focus his attention elsewhere.

This isn't Monster's first clash with, and avoidance of, possible regulation. As we reported in March, the company earlier this year switched its classification from "supplement" to "beverage." The minor change meant less oversight from the FDA, including exemption from injury and death reporting requirements.

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