Feb. 16, 2013— -- Monster Beverage Corp. will include caffeine content on its energy drink labels because it no longer wants to be considered a dietary supplement, and instead will adhere to Food and Drug Administration guidelines for conventional foods.
The switch comes after a wrongful death lawsuit filed last fall against Monster Energy, which plagued the company – and the rest of the energy drink industry. It prompted the release of FDA reports that attributed five possible deaths to Monster Energy and another 13 possible deaths to 5-Hour Energy, a 2-ounce energy shot.
"The Company saw no reason to continue being subjected to erroneous and misguided criticism that its Monster Energy drinks are being marketed as dietary substances to avoid FDA regulation," reads a statement from Monster Beverage Corp. sent to ABCNews.com.
The energy drink maker added that remaining a dietary substance would give it a continued competitive disadvantage against Red Bull, the most popular energy drink on the market. As a conventional food, Red Bull can be purchased with food stamps and be exempt from sales taxes. As a dietary substance, Monster Energy cannot.
Monster Energy has also recently joined the American Beverage Association, which recommends labels that list ingredient amounts, the company said in a statement.
It's not clear when the change will take effect, but the company said it will happen "when new packaging is manufactured and new products are introduced."
Companies are free to choose whether they want to market their products as a dietary substance or a conventional food, said FDA spokesman Jalil Isa. Different laws apply to each, and the FDA can step in if the product is misrepresented to the public.
"So long as they can meet the rules applicable to each, the companies can position their products in the market how they deem appropriate," Isa said.
Since Monster Energy is currently classified as a dietary substance, it is not limited to the FDA's 200 parts per million caffeine limit on sodas. Coca Cola Classic has 30 to 35 mg of caffeine per 12-ounce can, but 12 ounces of the Monster drink in the wrongful death suit would have contained four times that.
Caffeine amounts do not have to be included in food labels because they are not nutrients, but if caffeine is added to a food, it should be included in the ingredients list.
Monster Energy ingredients will not change, according to the Monster Beverage Corp. statement. However, the statement does not specify whether the amounts of those ingredients will change.