San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against Monster Beverage Monday, on the heels of Monster filing suit against Herrera last week. The city’s suit calls Monster’s business practices around its energy drinks “unfair, deceptive, and unlawful” and asserts that Monster violates both California’s health and safety code and its business and professions code. The suit cites recent reports of health complications and “even deaths related to energy drink consumption.”
Despite these risks, the suit says, “Monster aggressively markets its products to children and teenagers.”
Monster has repeatedly released statements saying the drinks are safe and properly labeled. The company filed suit last week after a March letter from Herrera asking it to reduce the caffeine in its drinks, provide better warning labels and quit targeting minors. Monster says the city is singling it out, noting in its suit that “any child can walk into a Starbucks and buy an unlimited number” of 16-ounce brewed coffees, which Monster says have twice as much caffeine as its energy drinks.
The confrontation has its roots in Herrera’s demand last year that the company, based in Corona (Riverside County), “substantiate marketing claims that the large dosages of caffeine contained in popular beverages are ‘completely safe’ for consumption by adolescents and adults.”
The city attorney has maintained that his office had been working with Monster in good faith to negotiate voluntary changes to its marketing practices when the company filed its lawsuit.
“Monster is doing nothing more than claiming an unfettered right to continue marketing its products to children and youth, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that its products pose a risk to young people’s health and safety,” Herrera said last week.
Herrera began investigating Monster last year, when the Food and Drug Administration began looking into reports of deaths linked to energy drinks. That investigation is ongoing.
Mina Kim contributed to this report.