May 7 (Bloomberg) -- Monster Beverage Corp. was sued by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who made good on recent warnings to take legal action against the energy-drink maker for allegedly improper marketing to minors.
The lawsuit, which Herrera said was filed in state court in San Francisco, came the week after Monster sued Herrera in a Southern California federal court, claiming his investigations of the company and threat to sue violate free-speech rights and attempt to improperly regulate the caffeine content of its products.
Herrera said his office had been working with Monster in good faith to negotiate voluntary changes to its youth-targeted marketing practices when the Corona, California-based drink maker abruptly sued April 29.
“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 yesterday in an e-mail. 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.’’
The lawsuit’s allegations are “demonstrably false” and Monster has repeatedly said that it doesn’t market to children, said Michael Sitrick, a Monster spokesman who works for Sitrick & Co. in Los Angeles.
“The FDA has never disputed that the ingredients in our energy drinks are GRAS (General Recognized as Safe),” Sitrick said in an e-mail. “Nor have they disputed that our drinks are properly labeled.”
In his complaint, Herrera alleged Monster’s business and marketing practices violate California’s unfair competition and food and drug laws and seeks a court order blocking the conduct and fining the company. The filing couldn’t immediately be confirmed independently in court records.
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 FDA said in November it’s investigating whether energy drinks may cause harm when consumed in excess or by young people or those with pre-existing heart conditions. The agency may move to regulate the drinks’ use or labeling.
The case is California v. Monster, California Superior Court (San Francisco).
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