Indian−American denies his energy drink linked to deaths

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The Indian−American founder and CEO of 5−Hour Energy has denied suggestions that the popular drink is responsible for 13 deaths in the past four years following a report that US authorities are looking into the claims.

The idea that the drink is to blame for killing anyone is like comparing "drinking a bottle of water today, and then thousands of people died the next day; that somehow it's linked," said Lucknow−born Manoj Bhargava.

"It's just false," he was quoted as saying by Fox News.

The reports were first detailed by The New York Times Wednesday, and Bhargava said he would not expect this from the Times.

"They should not be making this mistake," Bhargava told Fox News, adding that the people making these claims were "just after some money".

The news follows the US Food and Drug Administration's disclosure last month that it is investigating reports of five deaths that may be related to Monster Beverage's namesake drinks.

"Caffeine is a good thing," Bhargava said. "The only things that we get about caffeine is from reporters, who really have no clue what caffeine does."

FDA spokesperson Shelly Burgess said that 5−hour Energy, sold by Living Essentials, has been mentioned in some 90 FDA filings since 2009, including more than 30 that involved serious or life−threatening events like heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion, the New York Times reported.

The Times said another federal agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported late last year that more than 13,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were associated with energy drinks alone.

Elaine Lutz, spokeswoman for Living Essentials, the company that distributes 5−hour Energy, said in a statement that the product "is not an energy drink" (the so−called shot comes in a bottle that holds less than two ounces).

"Living Essentials takes reports of any potential adverse event tied to our products very seriously. We fully comply with all of our reporting requirements," it said, adding that the company is "unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5−hour Energy".

Currently the FDA does not publicly disclose adverse event filings about dietary supplements, including energy shot drinks.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)