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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congressional Testimony on Energy Drink Marketing

"Energy drink companies have promoted their products not as caffeine-fueled concoctions but as specially engineered blends that provide something more. For example, producers claim that 'Red Bull gives you wings,' that Rockstar Energy is 'scientifically formulated' and Monster Energy is a 'killer energy brew.' Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, a Democrat, has asked the government to investigate the industry’s marketing claims."

--"Energy Drinks Promise Edge, but Experts Say Proof Is Scant" (New York Times, January 2, 2013)

"Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.  At the request of Congressman Markey, I led a panel of scientists and nutrition experts to assess the accuracy of marketing claims asserted by makers of so-called 'energy drinks.' I come before you today to present our findings.

"To begin with, I am pleased to report that our panel finds the claim by the makers of Rockstar Energy--that this drink is 'scientifically formulated'--to be largely accurate.  Rockstar Energy drinks are composed largely of molecules--on average, Rockstar drinks are 96.4% molecules by volume.  The remaining 3-4% of each can of Rockstar consists of some unknown material, which we can only assume to be supernatural in essence.  At any rate, given the overwhelming preponderance of molecules in the drink's composition, and since nothing is more 'science-y' than molecules, we are comfortable endorsing the company's claims to scientific formulation.

"Somewhat more difficult to assess were the claims of Monster Energy.  Monster claims to be a 'killer energy brew.' Obviously, the testing of this claim presents thorny ethical issues.  In a strictly literal sense, we confirmed the accuracy of the claim: After ingesting significant amounts of Monster Energy, a number of mice, rabbits, and a small pig quickly succumbed to what our medical experts diagnosed as 'Exploding Heart Syndrome.'  Nevertheless, we were unable to confirm or debunk the claims as they pertain to human, which we assume to be Monster's primary target audience. 
Numerous requests to experiment on prisoners were denied.  In short, this claim remains unproven.

"Finally, with regard to perhaps the most famous marketing claim of any of these drinks, I must report that Red Bull does not, in fact, 'give you wings.'  We tested the drink on numerous experimental subjects, and in only one case did Red Bull 'give wings': Further review, however, revealed that this particular test subject--a snowy egret--actually had wings to begin with.  Furthermore, we are sorely disappointed with the makers of Red Bull for their attempt to deceive our panel by presenting as proof of wing-acquisition one Mr. Hans Bieberkopf of Salzburg, whose wings had clearly been stapled on.  While we did conclude that drinking more than three times the recommended serving size of Red Bull may cause certain people to sprout feathers, we cannot endorse the overall accuracy of Red Bull's claims.

"I thank the committee for their time."

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