BOISE -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation into the makers of the popular drink Monster Energy. The FDA is seeing if the highly caffeinated beverage could be responsible for five deaths. The allegations date back to 2004.
A 24-ounce can of Monster Energy Drink contains 240 milligrams of caffeine -- a can of soda typically contains up to 50 milligrams, or five times less.
NBC says the FDA report indicates all five victims cited by the FDA drank Monster Energy drinks before they died. However, the FDA also admits the reports don't prove the energy drink caused the victims' deaths.
A 14-year-old girl from Maryland, Anais Fournier, is one of the victims. Her parents are suing Monster, claiming the company did not warn about the risks of its drinks. NBC reports an autopsy concluded Fournier died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity. The medical examiner also discovered she had an inherited disorder that can weaken blood vessels.
"The number of caffeine related emergency room visits in the last five years has increased by 10 times," said Dr. Matt Eastman, who practices family medicine at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
Eastman says if people consume too much caffeine it can be toxic. "Most people recommend for adults a safe level of caffeine would be about 400 milligrams a day," said Eastman. "There is no similar guidelines for children."
Eastman stresses that 400 milligrams is only a recommendation. Caffeine affects individuals differently so while that amount may be fine for most adults, it could be dangerous for others.
"... There is no hard line," said Eastman, who tells parents that it's especially hard to tell how much caffeine children should have because very little research has been done on the drug.
Caffeine toxicity can lead to shortness of breath, abdominal pain, jitters and in the most severe cases -- heart attack.
Eastman says parents should talk to their kids about the dangers of having too much caffeine. "I think that it definitely should be a cause for concern for parents that they really ought to find out how much of these beverages their kids are consuming on a daily basis," said Eastman.
Canada recently started regulating the amount of caffeine in energy drinks to cut down on the chances of caffeine toxicity. However, here in the United States, no such regulations exist.