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Next target of product banning: Energy drinks

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, 9:29 p.m.

CHICAGO — Is it time to start hoarding Red Bull?

Health concerns are prompting proposals to restrict the sale of highly caffeinated energy drinks.

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke last month introduced an ordinance that would ban the sale of energy drinks that contain 180 milligrams of caffeine and two other substances. That would end sales of many 24-ounce energy drinks.

A hearing on Burke's proposal has not been scheduled.

His concern was prompted by a study for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found the number of emergency room visits involving the drinks rose from about 10,000 in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011. The study said energy drinks can cause insomnia, fast heartbeat and seizures.

Other moves focusing on energy drinks, which were an $8.9 billion industry in 2011: The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether energy drinks were factors in some fatalities. Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut want the department to tighten regulation of the beverages.

A 180-milligram cap on caffeine content in energy drinks took effect in Canada last month. The Mayo Clinic says daily consumption of 200-300 milligrams usually — the equivalent of two to four cups of coffee — usually is not harmful. In the United States, a 16-ounce Rock Star Zero Carb contains 120 milligrams of caffeine.

Burke shrugs off comparisons of his proposed ordinance to the attempt by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of large sugary soft drinks.

“I've heard some of the ‘nanny arguments' being raised,” Burke says. “That's the same thing they argued 20 years ago when I was arguing for a smoking ban.”

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