Energy drinks, linked to thousands of emergency room visits a year, should be eliminated from Texas' public food program, says Rep. Terry Canales
So-called "energy drinks", which are chemical-loaded and high-caffeine beverages that have been connected nationwide to more than 20,000 hospital emergency room visits a year, would not be eligible for purchase using Texas' public food assistance program, known as SNAP, under legislation filed by Rep. Terry Canales, Edinburg.
Canales has introduced House Bill 523, which would prohibit Texans who qualify for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps, from using their Lone Star Card to buy the energy drinks because of growing health and safety concerns.
“My legislation would prevent people from purchasing energy drinks under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP),” Canales explained. “I have reviewed countless studies indicating that energy drinks have led to thousands of people being hospitalized due to resulting health complications and in some instances death.”
In Texas, there were more than 4.1 million persons, as of November 2012, participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Canales said he was concerned about the risks that energy drinks pose to younger Texans.
“SNAP was originally created and implemented to provide food and nutritional sustenance to people in need of governmental assistance, and energy drinks in my opinion simply do not meet that criteria,” he said. “My proposed legislation in no way attempts to dictate what a parent can and cannot feed their child. It does, however, stand for the proposition that the State of Texas will not assist families in providing dangerous products to their children.”
His bill would prohibit SNAP benefits from being used to buy “beverage[s] containing at least 65 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces that is advertised as being specifically designed to provide metabolic stimulation or an increase to the consumer’s mental or physical energy,” according to the legislation, which would not ban coffee or coffee-based beverages.
Canales said that many brands of energy drinks, which are sold in cans and bottles in grocery stores, vending machines, and convenience stores, most often do not fully disclose the potential health risks associated with their consumption.
Citing a November 2011 study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Canales reported “excessive caffeine intake from energy drinks can cause arrhythmias, hypertension, and dehydration, in addition to sleeplessness and nervousness. Additional risks and other medical complications can arise depending on the individual's overall health status.”
In its report, "Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks" (The DAWN Report, November 22, 2011), SAMHSA also reported:
• Energy drinks are flavored beverages that provide high doses of caffeine that act as a stimulant upon the central nervous system and cardiovascular system;
• Consumption of energy drinks is a rising public health problem because medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake. A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful effects, particularly for children, adolescents, and young adults;
• Trend data showed a sharp increase nationwide in the number of emergency room visits involving energy drinks between 2005 (1,128 visits) and 2008 and 2009 (16,053 and 13,114 visits, respectively), representing a 10-fold increase between 2005 and 2009. Those annual figures increased to 20,738 in 2011; and
• A new finding in this report, which was updated in January 2013, suggests that older adults may also be vulnerable to the effects of energy drinks even though the drinks are marketed with claims of having a positive impact on energy and concentration. The safety of these products among adults who take medications or have medical conditions has been questioned. Health professionals can discourage use of energy drinks by explaining that perceived health benefits are largely due to marketing techniques rather than scientific evidence.
DAWN, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related morbidity and mortality. DAWN uses a probability sample of hospitals to produce estimated of drug-related emergency department (ED) visits for the United States and selected metropolitan areas annually.
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