New York—Attorney general of the state of New York Eric T. Schneiderman issued subpoenas in July to leading energy drink makers PepsiCo, Inc., maker of AMP; Monster Beverage Corp. and Living Essentials LLC, maker of 5-hour Energy drinks, the Wall Street Journal reports. The accuracy of these companies’ marketing and advertising on behalf of these products is being called into question.

Ingredients said to be included in these drinks often include B-vitamins, taurine and ginseng. The investigation, which is reportedly in its early stages and could expand to include other companies, seeks to focus on whether drink makers are misleading consumers with inaccurate labeling and advertising.

Specifically, authorities are eyeing the way that exotic or specialized ingredients like guarana are presented to consumers. The benefits of some of these may be overstated, while the role that the common stimulant caffeine goes understated. Actual product labels on energy drinks infrequently present consumers with the exact amount of caffeine present in the product, instead only stating that the product contains it. 5-hour Energy's Web site claims that it contains as much caffeine as a typical cup of coffee, without specifying the amount.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has voiced concern over the marketing of energy drinks before, but this challenge comes from a state attorney general and applies to products sold within that jurisdiction. If these companies are found in violation of state laws, they could face civil penalties and be forced to alter their labeling and marketing.

The fast-climbing energy drinks sector grew 16% last year, and now accounts for 12% of the overall carbonated soft-drink category, the Wall Street Journal report noted. Monster drinks lead the U.S. by sales volume, with Red Bull GmbH and Rockstar Inc. trailing.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2012 (online 8/28/12)