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Paid Medical Advisor Arnot Defends Monster Beverage

Tuesday, 2 Jul 2013 | 2:53 PM ET
Monster Energy Drinks Faces Suits
Monday, 1 Jul 2013 | 1:33 PM ET
Monster Beverage is fighting two wrongful death suits. The company's paid medical consultant, Dr. Bob Arnot, provides its perspective.

Days after attorneys filed a second lawsuit against Monster Beverage, the energy-drink maker is striking back.

While under fire earlier this year, the company hired former NBC News Medical correspondent Dr. Bob Arnot as a paid medical advisor, a spokesperson for Monster Beverage confirmed.

The looming question is whether the energy drinks are safe.

"I don't determine that—it's the FDA that determines that," Arnot told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Monday.

"The reason Monster reached out to me is I'm a performance athlete," he said. "I compete in stand-up paddling races and bike races, and I've used energy drinks for the last 10 years. I don't have any concerns about them personally. ... I don't endorse them, but I have no problem with them. And with my own kids ... I've gone over the label and allowed them to make their own decisions."

But when the subject of energy drinks came up on "The Dr. Oz Show" several months ago and the host concluded, "I would not give them to my kids," Arnot said, "Neither would I."

(Read More: Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Monster Energy)

CNBC asked Arnot on Monday whether he had changed his stance on the drinks since his March appearance on "The Dr. Oz Show."

Clarifying that his own children are 19 and 25, Arnot said, "I don't recommend them for kids. Monster Energy, from the time the very first can rolled off the assembly line, said, 'There's not enough data. ... We don't recommend them to kids. And on the label it says, 'Not recommended for kids.' "

He also addressed his relationship with Monster Beverage. "Monster is not paying me as a spokesperson. They're not paying me to say anything, they're not telling me to say anything," he said.

Based on his review of the data and scientific articles, the health claims against the energy drinks are "scientifically unfounded," he said. "You need a very serious epidemiological study to look at it. There are no clusters of cases at this point," Arnot told CNBC.

Monster Beverage, based in Corona, Calif., is being sued in two wrongful death cases.

The first case involves a 14-year-old Maryland girl. In that case, the coroner ruled that the cause of death was "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity."

The conclusion is "just plain wrong," Arnot said.

Kevin Goldberg of the firm Goldberg, Finnegan and Mester is a lead plaintiff attorney in the case. In a statement sent to CNBC he said, "Monster continues to ignore the consensus in the medical and scientific community that energy drinks should not be consumed by children, teenagers or anyone with an underlying heart condition. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association are in agreement that energy drinks can be dangerous and that they should not be consumed by children and adolescents. Even Dr. Arnot has admitted that he would not allow his own children to consume energy drinks."

In a separate lawsuit, Monster is being sued by the city of San Francisco, which claims that the company markets its highly caffeinated energy drinks to children and adolescents.

Arnot denied those charges Monday. "Kids are off the table," he said. "They've never marketed to kids. They don't believe in it."

If and when there's any additional regulation of energy drinks, "Monster will certainly abide by whatever guidelines are provided," Arnot said.

Monster Beverage recently was trading around $60 a share. The stock is down from a year ago, when the possibility of lawsuits emerged, but has recently recovered somewhat.

—By CNBC's Jason Gewirtz

Suing Monster Beverage
A second wrongful death suit was filed against Monster Beverage. Kevin Goldberg of Goldberg Finnegan & Mester is suing the company for the deaths of a 14-year-old girl in Maryland and a 19-year-old man in California.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com.

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