(Photo : Creative Commons/Erik Derr)
The maker of Monster energy drinks is fighting claims that energy drinks caused the death of a 14-year-old Maryland girl by charging no blood test was performed to prove the girl died of "caffeine toxicity."
Monster Beverage's defense comes at a time energy drinks face intense scrutiny over their contents, particularly levels of caffeine.
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The family of Anais Fournier said in a lawsuit filed last year that the girl went into cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster drinks within in a 24 hours.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports of other energy drink-related deaths, at least five of which also blame Monster beverages. Agency officials have clarified the reports don't offer proof the drinks caused the deaths.
Monster Beverage's lawyer, Daniel Callahan, told reporters the company hired a team of physicians to review the medical findings in the Fournier case and discovered she likely died of natural causes connected to a pre-existing heart condition.
Callahan asserted the Monster medical research team didn't find any medical evidence that caffeine was even a factor in Fournier's death.
Callahan continued that the "caffeine toxicity" notation on the autopsy report was based on interviews comments by Fournier's mother, who told the medical examiner's office the girl consumed energy drinks before her death.
Maryland's chief medical examiner's office could not immediately confirm a caffeine blood test had been performed on Fournier's body, though the cause of death on the autopsy report was "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity."
The Fournier's family attorney, Kevin Goldberg, countered that the absence of a test for caffeine toxicity "doesn't tell us anything. "
The fact Fournier "went into cardiac arrest just hours after consuming the second 24-ounce Monster energy drink is evidence that she died of caffeine toxicity," he said in an email sent to the Washington Post.
Labeling on Monster's cans say the drinks are not for children or pregnant women. Goldberg, however, says the warning is "ambiguous and intentionally misleading" because Monster's marketing is geared toward teenagers and young adults.
Monster says its beverages are geared toward consumers 18 to 34 years old, but regardless its drinks are safe for children.
The company also said there's evidence that shows Fournier regularly consumed energy drinks and frequented Starbucks without incident. Monster made those findings public during a press event in Chicago, in a ramp-up to a public hearing on Tuesday over a proposed ban there on energy drinks.