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OPINION: San Francisco to Monster Energy Beverages: We’re Suing You for Marketing to Minors

In the most recent news regarding the caffeine wars, Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST) was taken to court today by the city of San Francisco over allegedly catering their marketing efforts towards minors. But wait a tick… last time the law books were checked, there is no law against marketing coffee or energy drinks to minors. In fact, only schedule listed substances like alcohol and tobacco could possibly fall under that premise. So what gives?

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit after repeatedly warning the beverage maker to avoid tailoring its marketing messages to minors. Apparently, Herrera believes that he is able to dictate the way that the law reads regarding marketing of soft drinks. Ironically, Monster only contains about two cups of coffee, about a cup more worth of caffeine as a standard cola product. But, naturally, Pepsi and Coke and other generic brands are immune to Herrera’s decree and ban against non-coffee energy drinks for minors.

But it gets more interesting. The Corona based energy drink maker had been working with Herrera’s office on a voluntary basis when they suddenly sued him end of April. Perhaps for violating of their constitutional rights, as federal and state law does not prohibit such advertising, yet Herrera’s opinion is apparently more important than superseding state and federal laws… or constitutional rights.

“Monster Energy is unique among energy drink makers for the extent to which it targets children and youth in its marketing, despite the known risks its products pose to young people’s health and safety,” Herrera said. “As the industry’s worst-offender, Monster Energy should reform its irresponsible and illegal marketing practices before they’re forced to by regulators or courts.”

Over the past five years, about five estimated persons have died from energy drinks, and only one of them was possibly linked to Monster beverages. But does not Herrera allow alcohol sales in “his” city, which kill untold scores of people every year? Hmm…

In the complaint he filed, Herrera claims that the beverage maker is in violation of unfair competition and food and drug laws. He is seeking a court order that forces changes in marketing and fines the company.

Related Bloomberg Article:

Monster said its drinks have less than half the caffeine per ounce of coffeehouse-brewed coffee. The company said that it exceeds U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements by stating on Monster Energy cans the amount of caffeine per eight ounces and per can and that its labels have included cautions for children, pregnant women and caffeine-sensitive people for more than a decade.

The case is California v. Monster, California Superior Court (San Francisco).

The FDA is still investigating energy drinks. All said and done, how can it possibly be fair to target one soft drink maker? For example, other soft drink makers pack their products with sugars, caffeine and acids, which contribute to obesity, dental issues, medical issues, diseases and illnesses.

But as Herrera has made obvious, those are OK, provided you are not an “energy drink” marketing to minors.

Coke and Pepsi get a pass on the firm grip of Herrera. For now that is.


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