Written by Bobby Allyn, The Tennessean
Exactly what is in a 5-Hour Energy shot? That question has been at the center of a series of lawsuits and counter-suits around the country, and it has now made its way to a Davidson County court.
Makers of the popular energy drink 5-Hour Energy are asking a Tennessee judge to make state regulators back off in their request for the company's closely-held recipe, citing state law that protects trade secrets.
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the Attorney General's Office are insisting that 5-Hour Energy's manufactures hand over the exact ingredients used in the company's energy shots -a request that was part of a 33-state investigation into the drink maker's allegedly misleading advertising claims.
Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures, both based in Michigan, brought a lawsuit last week against state agencies in Davidson County Chancery Court. In the suit they argued that turning over the information that regulators are requesting would cause "irreparable harm" to the companies.
Because the energy drink market is buzzing with competition, the suit says, the information in question is highly sensitive and will make them lose their market advantage.
Introduced in 2004, 5-Hour energy shots sell around 9 million bottles a week, according to the company.
But state officials says their marketing claims - namely, that there is "no crash" after consuming a shot - are misleading consumers.
The energy elixir is typically sold at convenience stores in brightly colored displays, mostly near check-out counters.
After the "no crash" claim received a fair amount of scrutiny by consumer advocates, the company added an asterisk on its label, telling consumers that there is "no sugar crash" since the drink is sugar-free.
Federal regulators are asking the companies for the same information regulators in Tennessee and several other states are requesting.
The Department of Justice asked the company for all of its ingredients, but the companies provided just the amount of caffeine in the drink. All other ingredient information was redacted in the documents the companies provided to federal officials.
In November, federal authorities announced that they are looking into 13 deaths linked to energy shots.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in many other states that are part of the multi-state investigation into the energy drink.
The caffeine levels in 5-Hour Energy shots are higher than any of its competitors, according to a recent Consumer Reports study that examined 27 energy drinks. There are around 242 milligrams of caffeine in each shot, which is more than double the amount of caffeine found in an 8-ounce cup of coffee, the report found.
High caffeine intake can cause insomnia, tremors and abnormal heart rhythm.
In a statement, Living Essentials said 5-Hour Energy is intended for "hardworking adults who need an extra boost of energy."