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The company behind Monster Energy Drinks is now selling its product as a "beverage," not as a "dietary supplement." The move has strategic legal consequences.
The drinks -- including the ingredients and the packaging -- remain relatively the same. But this change in designation will affect how Monster Energy Drinks are regulated, reports The New York Times.
One of the key results of this change is that Monster will no longer be required to notify federal regulators about reports that potentially link its products to deaths and injuries.
A Monster Decision
Monster joins Rockstar Energy as the latest of the energy drink makers that have changed their designation from "dietary supplement" to "beverage." These changes come on the heels of several well publicized deaths and injuries to consumers, allegedly after drinking the heavily caffeinated concoctions.
The drink makers now enter the largely unregulated area of energy drinks, reports the Times.
Previously, energy drink makers like Monster sold their products as dietary supplements as part of a strategy to convince consumers that these products were different from ordinary beverages. But dietary supplements are heavily regulated; with the recent spate of bad press, the companies faced the prospect of severe oversight and regulatory requirements.
Beverages v. Dietary Supplements
As a beverage maker, Monster will still have to report to the government when they think a product can cause injury. In addition, beverage companies have to keep scientific data supporting the safety of any ingredients they use in their products, if the ingredients are not already cleared by the government.
Compare that to what's required for a dietary supplement maker: Monster would have had to meet additional requirements relating to warnings, providing safety information, labeling, making health claims, and the reporting of injuries and deaths to federal regulators, according to the FDA.
A spokesperson for Monster said that the company could equally satisfy the regulatory requirements for either beverage maker or dietary supplement company. The spokesperson said the move was partially motivated to allow consumers to use government-subsidized food stamps to buy beverages, reports the Times; food stamps cannot be used to buy dietary supplements.