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Monster Energy now a "Beverage"; Obama Speaks in Israel

Aired March 21, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks for being with us this morning.

Despite the health warnings, energy drinks are big, big business -- a $12.5 billion industry. But these highly caffeinated drinks are not without controversy so "Monster Energy" is making a huge change. It will now market its product as a beverage and not as a dietary supplement. And that means they won't have to tell federal regulators about people possibly getting sick or dying.

We'll talk to a city attorney, who's fighting to regulate caffeinated -- caffeine levels in energy drinks in just a few minutes. But we want to begin with Dr. Bob Arnot, who's a paid medical consultant for -- for Monster Energy. Welcome, doctor.


COSTELLO: I'm good. Thanks for joining us this morning.

ARNOT: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Cynics might say Monster is changing its labels to escape lawsuits. For example, a Maryland family claims their 14-year-old died after drinking two Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period. So this sudden decision to re-label seems suspect to some.

ARNOT: Well it's really interesting. I looked at that case in great depth it's quite clear at least to a leading cardiac pathologist that she died from myocarditis. If you go to the myocarditis Web site you'll see that there's zero relationship between caffeine and sudden death in that particular condition.

So in terms of the change of label, look it, you know all energy drinks that have been labeled as supplements have been suspect. In the sense that you say supplement, and automatically there's this kind of cloud over you in terms of saying something's a supplement.

So the idea was, they wanted to get out from under that cloud to label as a food or a beverage. So I want to make one point really clear, that as Monster intends to continue to report any adverse effects to the FDA, so it's not trying to duck out from that, it just wants to get out from the cloud of being labeled a supplement. The other thing is -- COSTELLO: Well and just going -- just going back to -- and I just want to point out that -- that the company and you looked into this girl's medical records, but you're being paid by the company. So that might make people a little suspect.

ARNOT: Well, I wouldn't really say suspect. I mean, they've given me a complete hand -- I've come in here to really look at the responsibly -- the responsible use of energy drinks. The reason the company approached me, I have a best-selling book, "The Aztec Diet," and in that I mentioned that I -- I actually use energy drinks.

So it's a completely responsible use, so I really don't think it's suspect at all. You know, the key issue here, Carol, is this, you know in the report and I read through Attorney Herrera's report here. His concern is caffeine levels.

So his concern is that in eight fluid ounces here, roughly this amount, that 100 to 300 milligrams, he considers to be too much. Well, in eight ounces of a Monster Energy, it's only 80 milligrams. And to put that into perspective, if you were to have a Starbucks Cafe Grande, you have 330 milligrams. So look it there are energy drinks out there that have a ton of caffeine and it may be too much.

Go to and you'll see that you have to go down 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, down to about 120 until you reach Monster Energy. So a very small amount of caffeine.


COSTELLO: So -- so would you still suggest, would you still suggests perhaps, an eight-year-old drink Monster Energy? Because I don't see many 8-year-olds standing in line at Starbucks?

ARNOT: Absolutely not. That is back in 2002 when this was formulated, Monster Energy looked at the data on kids and said, there's not enough data one way or the other. We're not going to market to kids, we're not going to advertise to kids, we're not going to sell to kids and we're not going to recommend it to kids. And if you look at the label on the can, it says, not recommended for children.

The other thing that Monster is doing, is it's also labeling the total amount of caffeine. People criticized energy drinks for quote, "hiding caffeine in the gurona (ph)", but you'll see the total amount. So in April, 50 percent of the cans, and in May, 90 percent of the cans are going to have stamped on them voluntarily the total amount of caffeine that's in that so the public can judge how much there is.

COSTELLO: Dr. Bob Arnot, thank you so much for joining us.

ARNOT: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Posting the caffeine content on labels for drinks like Monster Energy is just the first step. Dennis Herrera is a city attorney for San Francisco. Welcome.


COSTELLO: Good morning. So you have a sort of the opposite view. You and a group of doctors have been asking the FDA to force these energy drink makers to include that information. It looks like you got your wish.

HERRERA: Well, it's a step in the right direction. Historically, Monster and most other energy drink manufacturers really shied away from classifying their product as beverages, because if you are a beverage, caffeine is a food additive, which then would have to meet, under federal law, the generally recognized as safe which means it has to be a general consensus of scientific opinion that the product is safe.

And that is a burden that's on the manufacturer. They've never had to show that and by classifying it as a dietary supplement, they escaped regulation totally.

So from our perspective, this is a step in the right direction and now the impetus is going to be on Monster to demonstrate that their product is safe. We've asked them to do that and unfortunately, they haven't. And I think that what you've seen is, there's at least 18 nationally recognized scientists that wrote to the FDA, to say, there's not that consensus of opinion.

COSTELLO: And that's basically because these energy drinks still have more caffeine in them than you can find in sodas, right?

HERRERA: Well, that's a piece of it. If you look at FDA regulations, they require for cola-related drinks, about 71 milligrams is the limit for a 12 ounce serving. Monster, for example, in a 12-ounce serving has somewhere between 160 milligrams of caffeine and 240 milligrams of caffeine, and there are many other energy drinks that have well in excess of that.

And oftentimes, their product is not only a 12-ounce drink, but it's a 24-ounce drink.

COSTELLO: Mr. Herrera, I have to interrupt you right now and I apologize for that. We have to go to Israel. President Obama is now speaking.

Wolf Blitzer, let's go to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The President of the United States in Jerusalem at the Jerusalem Convention Center, the center piece of his visit to Israel, addressing young people, a few thousand are gathered inside. We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. Complete analysis immediately following the President's speech.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem and I'm so grateful for the welcome that I've received from the people of Israel. Thank you. I bring with me the support of the American people and the friendship that binds us together. You know, over the last two days, I've reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I've born witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book and I've seen Israel's shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.

But what I've most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people, especially so many young people who are here today. To talk about the history that brought us here today and the future that you will make in the years to come.

Now, I know that in Israel's vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized. But I want to clear something up, just so you know any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Haaretz (inaudible). That's the only thing that was going on.

We just -- we just -- we just wanted to make sure the writers had good material. I also know that I've come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday, the celebration of Pass over. And that is where I would like to begin today. Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table and celebrate with songs, wine, and symbolic foods.

After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I'm proud that I've now brought this tradition into the White House. And I did so -- I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the (inaudible) and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful. It's a story of centuries of slavery and years of wandering in the desert, a story of perseverance amidst persecution and faith in God and the Torah. It's a story about finding freedom in your own land. And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you've become.

But it's also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation. It's a part of the three great religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- that trace their origins to Abraham and see Jerusalem as sacred. And it's a story that's inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.

In the United States, a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew were naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land.

To African-Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity. A tale that was carried from slavery through the civil rights movement into today.

For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon. For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.

Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God's will and his gift of freedom, expressed on Passover, we also know that here on earth, we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations. It means us working, through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, "I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So just -- so just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua generation. For justice and dignity, for opportunity and freedom.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the state of Israel wound (ph) through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.

Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea. To be a free people in your homeland.

That's why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea. The idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.

Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the Promised Land, it only begins. And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora, welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.

Israel has built a prosperous nation through kibbutzim that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space. Israel's established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties and a tireless free press and a lively public debate -- lively may be an understatement.

And Israel's achieved all of this even as it's overcome relentless threats to its security. Through the courage of the Israel defense forces and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror. This is the story of Israel. This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life.

And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America. Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the state of Israel. As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, "I believe it has a glorious future before it, not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization." And since then, we've built a friendship that advances our shared interests.

Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe and strengthening the middle class within our own countries. Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy. But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders.

America's a nation of immigrants. America's strengthened by diversity. America is enriched by faith. We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws. We're fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to re-imagine and renew our union once more. So in Israel we see values that we share. Even as we recognize what makes us different. That is an essential part of our bond.

Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times. We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries and we face dangers and upheaval around the world. And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we'll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.

But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy and their ambition always gives me hope. And I see the same spirit in the young people here today. I believe that you will shape our future, and given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours.

No, no. This is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good. You know, I have -- I have to say, we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home. You know, I wouldn't feel comfortable if I didn't have at least one heckler.

I'd like to focus on how we, and when I said we, in particular young people, can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times. Security, peace, and prosperity.

Let me begin with security. I'm proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger -- never. More exercises between our militaries, more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before. The largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge.

These are the facts. These aren't my opinions. These are facts. But to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet. I know that here in Israel, security is something personal. Here's what I think about when I consider these issues. When I consider Israel's security, I think about children, like Osha Twedl (ph), who I met in (inaudible). Children the same age as my own daughters, who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live. That reality is why we've invested in the Iron Dome System, to save countless lives because those children deserve to sleep better at night. That's why we've made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza. And we have stood up for Israel's right to defend itself. And that's why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

When I think about Israel's security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria and were blown up because of where they came from, robbed of the ability to live and love and raise families. That's why every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is, a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot its cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.

The fact that Hezbollah has allied the Assad regime, has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I've made it clear to Bashar al Assad and all who follow his orders, we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists. The world is watching. We will hold you accountable.

The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power. Assad must go so that Syria's future can begin. Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people. One that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them. These are the things I think about when I think about Israel's security.

When I consider Israel's security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel's destruction. It's no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.

But this is not simply a challenge for Israel, it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, it would undermine the non- proliferation regime, it would spark an arms race in a volatile region, and it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That's why America's built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated, its economy is in dire straits, its leadership is divided, and its position in the region and the world has only grown weaker.

I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Peace is far more preferable to war. And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That's what America will do, with clear eyes, working with a world that's united, and with the sense of urgency that's required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I've made the position of the United States of America clear. Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. And as president, I've said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that's even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day. You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist and your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world. Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state. Your children grow up knowing that people they've never met may hate them because of who they are in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.

So that's what I think about when Israel's faced with these challenges. That sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it and many in the world who refuse to accept it. That's why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important. It cannot be taken for granted.

But make no mistake. Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath --