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Monster Sues San Francisco City Attorney Over Caffeine

Monster Beverage Corp., the maker of Monster Energy drinks, filed a lawsuit to stop San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s attempt to regulate the caffeine content of its products and change its marketing.

Herrera “has decided, against the weight of scientific evidence and contrary to a recent determination by regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that plaintiffs’ energy drinks are unhealthful and wants to dictate who may and may not consume them,” Monster said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Riverside, California.

Monster’s labels and drinks are regulated by the FDA, not the city, and San Francisco’s demands violate U.S. free speech and interstate commerce laws, according to the complaint. The Corona, California-based company seeks a court order finding Herrera’s investigation of Monster drinks unconstitutional and blocking him from bringing suit against the company.

Monster said its drinks have less than half the caffeine per ounce of coffeehouse-brewed coffee. The company said that it exceeds FDA 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.

‘Unfettered Right’

“Monster Energy is claiming an unfettered right to continue marketing its products to children and youth, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that its products pose serious risks to young people’s health and safety,” Herrera said in an e-mailed statement. “I strongly disagree with Monster’s legal contention, and I intend to litigate this case aggressively.”

The city attorney said his consumer-protection unit has been investigating Monster’s business and marketing practices since October because of a “mounting scientific consensus” that energy drinks can pose a health risk to young people, according to the statement.

The FDA said in November it is investigating whether energy drinks may cause harm when consumed in excess or by young people or those in with pre-existing heart conditions. The agency may move to regulate the drinks’ use or labeling.

The case is Monster Beverage Corp. v. Herrera, 13-cv-00786, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).

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