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City Council Tue Mar 05 2013

Energy Drink Ban Delayed, Aldermen Doze Off

Alderman Ed Burke's proposed energy drink ban was discussed at a committee meeting Tuesday by medical professionals in favor, and beverage industry representatives opposed. The Committee on Health and Environmental Protection adjourned the meeting before voting on the ordinance.

Alderman George Cardenas (12 Ward), chairman of the committee, would rather enact tougher labeling rules than ban highly caffeinated drinks altogether. Some energy drink labels state that the product is potentially harmful, but this isn't required by federal regulations.

"[Warning labels] should be across the board on all cans," said Cardenas.

Currently, Monster Energy cans market the product as a "killer energy brew," which Burke (14th Ward) tried to use to make clear his position that energy drinks are a public health risk.

"The thing speaks for itself," said Burke. Burke also claimed that since some energy drinks are labeled as dietary supplements they face fewer federal regulations, a point that was contested by representatives of the beverage industry.

"Energy drinks are subjected to a comprehensive regulatory system whether they're marketed as conventional food or dietary supplements," said Stuart Pape, a lawyer representing the American Beverage Association.

The Food and Drug Administration's website, however, states that food additives have to be approved, but active ingredients of dietary supplements don't need pre-approval. In the case of supplements, it is up to the FDA to investigate products that may be harmful after they are on the market, rather than pre-approving them like conventional food.

Burke believes that federal court cases involving Chicago's bans on spray paint and phosphate-containing detergent "affirm the right of the city of Chicago" to regulate energy drinks.

After almost three hours of testimony for and against the proposal, the aldermen -- or at least the three who were still there -- seemed to be in need of an energy drink themselves, and the meeting ended with two people still waiting to speak. Another meeting, date not yet determined, will be held to hear the rest of the testimony and vote on an energy drink ban or, more likely, stronger labeling rules.

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