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FDA to seek outside help on drinks

The FDA letter appears to signal a change in the agency’s approach to the energy drinks.

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The FDA letter appears to signal a change in the agency’s approach to the energy drinks.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a letter released Tuesday that it was likely to seek advice from outside specialists to help determine whether energy drinks posed particular risks to teenagers or people with underlying health problems.

The letter appears to signal a change in the agency’s approach to the drinks, which contain high levels of caffeine.

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Previously, FDA officials have said they were investigating possible risks posed by popular products like 5-hour Energy, Monster Energy, and Red Bull. But an agency spokeswoman, Shelly Burgess, said the new letter was the first time the FDA had said it might turn to outside specialists.

The FDA letter, released Tuesday by Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, follows disclosures that the agency received reports of 18 deaths and over 150 injuries that mentioned the possible involvement of energy drinks.

Energy drink makers have said their products are safe and were not responsible for the health problems.

FDA officials said a review might be ‘‘greatly enhanced” by using expertise outside the FDA. They suggested they might seek that input from individuals or a group like the Institute of Medicine.

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