Both Java Monster Loca Moca and
mocha-flavored Doubleshot energy drinks come in brown 15-ounce cans. They both offer caffeine,
and "energy" in the form of guarana and ginseng.
But one is marketed as a food/beverage and the other as a dietary supplement, which means they are regulated in different ways by the
Products with a "nutrition facts" label are being sold as a food. That means all the additives must be generally regarded as safe or formally approved by the FDA. Such products can be packaged like soft drinks and placed near other beverages, including bottled water and orange juice.
If the product is marketed as a dietary supplement, the ingredients aren't necessarily reviewed for safety or efficacy by the FDA. They carry a "supplement facts" label and include a disclaimer that reads: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
Products sold as dietary supplements are not supposed to be marketed alongside conventional foods and beverages, according to 2009 FDA draft guidance that is not yet finalized. But when a Tribune reporter walked into a local drugstore, Java Monster and Starbucks Doubleshot were sitting side by side in a cooler.
The FDA is concerned about that blurred line because it's seeing an increase in the number of beverages marketed as dietary supplements. To avoid a safety review, some energy drink manufacturers market their products as dietary supplements and they may contain unapproved ingredients, the FDA said.
Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, said he believes consumers don't make purchasing decisions based on whether something is labeled a food or a dietary supplement; they simply want it to serve its purpose. But others say it's important for consumers know the difference because supplements are subject to fewer pre-market approval requirements than foods or drugs.
See if you can guess which of these products is a food and which is a supplement:
Java Monster Loca Moca Coffee + Energy
Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee
Red Bull Energy Drink
Rockstar Energy Drink
FRS Healthy Protein