San Francisco city attorney sues Monster Beverage

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2013 2:13 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Monster Beverage and San Francisco's city attorney are suing each other over the company's right to market its caffeinated energy drinks.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Monday that he's suing Monster for marketing its drinks to children despite scientific findings that he said show such products can cause health problems. Last week, Monster had sued Herrera over his demands that it reduce the caffeine levels in its drinks and stop marketing to minors.

"Our lawsuit is not a reaction to their lawsuit," Herrera said in an interview. "We were proceeding on this path in the event that we would be unable to come to a resolution."

The lawsuits reflect a breakdown in talks that started in October, when Herrera's office first began investigating energy drinks. The industry, which includes Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy shots and PepsiCo's Amp, had been enjoying enormous growth for years but more recently has come under intensifying scrutiny.

New York's attorney general has subpoenaed energy drink makers including Monster about how the drinks are made and marketed, and Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have repeatedly called on the Food and Drug Administration to look into the safety of the drinks.

Monster Beverage Corp., meanwhile, has stood by the safety of its drinks. Earlier this year, the company hit back at a lawsuit filed by the family of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who said she died after consuming two 24-ounce cans of the company's drink in a short period. The company, based in Corona, Calif., said there was no blood test performed to confirm that the girl died of caffeine toxicity.

Now both Monster and Herrera are accusing the other of trying to make their cases through the media, with each party noting that it learned of the other's lawsuit through reporters.

Herrera noted that his office had been working with Monster in "good faith to negotiate voluntary changes" when the company abruptly filed its lawsuit last week. He said Monster had confirmed a meeting that was scheduled to take place just a few days after the lawsuit was filed.

Although some coffees may contain more caffeine than Monster's energy drinks, Herrera has noted that coffee is typically served hot and consumed more slowly than energy drinks. In his lawsuit citing a violation of California law, he noted that Monster's website uses children as young as six years old to promote its brand.

Monster said in a statement Monday that that the issues raised by Herrera are matters that are entrusted to the regulatory authority of the FDA. It said Herrera's demands on Monster are pre-empted by federal law.

Shares of Monster were down $1.18, or 2.1 percent, to $56.26 in afternoon trading.