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Monster Beverage fires back at lawsuit

Questions death of girl, 14, due to ‘caffeine toxicity’

Labeling on Monster’s cans say the drinks are not for children or pregnant women.

Karen Bleier/AFP

Labeling on Monster’s cans say the drinks are not for children or pregnant women.

NEW YORK — Monster Beverage is hitting back at a lawsuit alleging its energy drinks were responsible for the death of a 14-year-old Maryland girl, saying that no blood test was performed to confirm that the girl died of ‘‘caffeine toxicity.’’

The disclosure comes amid intensifying scrutiny of energy drinks and their caffeine levels. A lawsuit filed last year by the family of Anais Fournier said the girl went into cardiac arrest after drinking two, 24-ounce cans of Monster drinks in a 24-hour period. The Food and Drug Administration is also investigating reports of deaths linked to energy drinks, including five that cite Monster beverages. The agency has noted that the reports don’t prove that the drinks caused the deaths.

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In an interview, Monster’s lawyer Daniel Callahan said the company hired a team of physicians to review the medical records in the Anais Fournier case and found that she most likely died of natural causes brought on by preexisting heart conditions. The team found no medical evidence to show that caffeine was a factor, he said.

Callahan said the finding of ‘‘caffeine toxicity’’ on the autopsy report was based on interviews with Fournier’s mother, who told the medical examiner’s office that the girl had consumed energy drinks before her death.

A spokesman for Maryland’s chief medical examiner could not immediately confirm whether a caffeine blood test had been performed and said the office does not comment on cases in litigation. The cause of death listed on the autopsy report was ‘‘cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity’’ in the presence of a heart condition.

Kevin Goldberg, a Maryland attorney for Fournier’s family, said that the absence of a test for caffeine ‘‘doesn’t tell us anything’’ and the family is looking forward to a jury determining Monster’s accountability.

Labeling on Monster’s cans say the drinks are not for children or pregnant women.

Monster says its target market is 18-to-34 years old, but that its drinks are nevertheless safe for children.

The company also said that evidence obtained as part of the lawsuit’s discovery process shows Anais Fournier regularly had energy drinks and frequented Starbucks without incident. Monster made the findings public during a press conference in Chicago.

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