TODAY   |  October 25, 2012

Report: Energy drinks have more caffeine than listed

In response to an FDA report investigating a link between a popular energy drink and five recent deaths, Consumer Reports launched its own investigation, and found that some of the drinks actually had 20 percent more caffeine than listed, and many of the products don’t list levels at all. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> a new report is out this morning about just how much caffeine is packed into energy drinks . tom costello has the latest. good morning.

>> natalie, good morning to you. these drinks are very popular because of the jolt people get, especially when they're trying to sy awake, but caffeine, as you know, is a stimulant. and because these are considered dietary supplements , they don't fall under fda regulation.

>> reporter: the headlines this week have been full of warnings about the caffeine levels in those high energy drinks. popular with high school and college kids . now consumer reports is out this morning with its own investigation into the real caffeine levels in the drinks and those drinks that don't specify caffeine levels. consumer reports tested 27 products and found that five of the cans that list caffeine actually have levels at least 20% higher than what their labels indicated. and 11 of the products don't specify their caffeine levels at all. since they're considered a dietary supplement , they're not required to.

>> it's important for people to understand what they're buying and drinking. and if that information is not even available on the product, that's the problem.

>> among those drinks that don't list caffeine levels, monster. we first reported on monster last march and the death of 14-year-old anise who died of cardiac arrest . the official cause of death , cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity. she had consumed two monster drinks in less than 24 hours , roughly 480 milligrams of caffeine, five times what's recommended for teens. her mother is now suing monster.

>> she's the last thing i think about at night. i visit the cemetery every day.

>> anise did suffer from a common heart defect and monster insists its products are safe telling nbc news it does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for anise's death and unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its products. but the fda this week confirmed anise is one of five deaths that could be linked to drinking monster energy drinks. monster points out the biggest drink contains 240 milligrams of caffeine, less than many popular coffee drinks. still, the chief of cardiology at georgetown university hospital says caffeine overdose is a real problem.

>> between the caffeine, the sugar, its affects on blood pressure, potential adverse effects, i think it's really difficult to justify a case for children, young adults to be using these substances right now.

>> e.r.s across the country have reported a dramatic surge in caffeine overdoses in recent years. now, some lawmakers want to give the fda the authority to regulate high caffeine energy drinks as much as it sets caffeine levels in soft drinks .

>> is it too much to ask the dietary supplement companies to go to the fda and at least register their product before they put them on the shelves across america?

>> the american beverage association tells nbc news it has adopted voluntary policies on energy drink labels and marketing to children. some do offer warnings, some don't offer warnings. natalie?

>> all right, tom costello, thanks