City Sues Monster Over Child Ads

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sued Monster Beverage Corp. for marketing high-caffeine drinks to children as young as six-years-old, in alleged violation of state law.

The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court Monday, just a week after Monster sued Herrera in federal court in Los Angeles in a pre-emptive strike to block the month’s-long investigation of marketing, according to Herrera’s office.

The city’s lawsuit alleged the company’s marketing practices violate California’s Unfair Competition Law and the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law.

The lawsuit maintains that Monster drinks contain large amounts of sugar and caffeine, with a 16-ounce can of Monster Energy containing 160 milligrams of caffeine, roughly equal to four cans of Coke.

The suit states health complications, including emergency room visits, injuries and even five deaths allegedly have been related to consumption of energy drinks.  In one instance, the suit states a 14-year-old girl died of cardiac arrhythmia induced by caffeine after drinking two 24-ounce Monster drinks in one day.

The suit accuses Monster marketing of being misleading, fails to warn consumers of dangers and promotes “excessive and unsafe” consumption of the drinks by children.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, has concluded the drinks can have adverse health effects when consumed before or during strenuous exercise, according to the suit.

The NCAA rules ban its member schools from distributing the drinks to college athletes, the suit states.

Herrera also argued that Monster uses alcohol and drug use references in marketing to under-age children and teenagers, which he called “an irresponsible and unfair business practice.”

Case:  People v. Monster Beverage Corp., No. CGC-13-531161

Monster federal case: Monster Beverage Corp. v. Herrera, CV-13-786