INFLUENCER-backed energy drink Prime is under fire for its potentially dangerous levels of caffeine.
The colourfully-packaged beverage, peddled by YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul, contains 200mg per 355ml – equivalent to about two cans of Red Bull or six cans of Coke.
Senior Democratic senator Chuck Schumer has called on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate.
He claims the drinks are being directly marketed to children as "one of the summer’s hottest beverages" but they carry "serious" health risks.
Speaking at a news conference in New York on Sunday, he said: "This stuff called Prime, at just 12 ounces, has an eye-popping level of caffeine and that’s giving parents and doctors the jitters for the kids that are targets.
"Prime is born from the reels of social media and the enigmatic world of influencers.
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"Kids see it on their phones as they scroll and then they actually have a need for it.
"And the problem here is that the product has so much caffeine in it that it puts Red Bull to shame.
"Parents beware because it’s a serious health concern for the kids it so feverishly targets."
Dr Edith R Bracho-Sanchez, a paediatrician from Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, added that high amounts of caffeine can cause children to have headaches, jitters, anxiety, nervousness, and sleep problems.
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"I think it is no secret and you don’t need a doctor to tell you that these drinks are giving you a boost," she said.
"They are stimulating you, but they are not giving you energy.
"This is not a good night’s sleep followed by a nutritious meal.
"What this drink is giving you is a caffeine rush. It is a high followed by a crash."
On the official website, Prime Energy is advertised as "not recommended for children under the age of 18, women who are pregnant or nursing, or individuals who are sensitive to caffeine".
And the brand insists consumer safety is a "top priority", noting that it sells a separate sports drink which contains no caffeine at all.
But in his letter to the FDA, Schumer claimed there was little noticeable difference in the online marketing of the two drinks.
He said the two products are packaged and advertised "in near identical form", leading many parents to believe they are purchasing a juice for their kids, only to wind up with a "cauldron of caffeine".
Prime has so much caffeine in it that it puts Red Bull to shame.
Schumer said: "The FDA must investigate Prime for its absurd caffeine content and its marketing targeting kids on social media."
Prime was launched by YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul in 2022.
It started as bottles of a coconut water-based "hydration" beverage, but has now expanded to include five flavours of energy drink.
These are strawberry watermelon, blue raspberry, tropical punch, orange mango, and lemon lime.
Its high caffeine content prompted bans from schools in the UK and Australia, where some doctors warned of possible side effects like heart problems, anxiety, and digestive issues.
Cans have been almost impossible to get hold of, with supermarkets selling out in record-time.
Last year, ministers in the UK vowed to ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under 16, but there are currently no legal age restrictions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 12 should consume no caffeine, while those aged 12 to 18 should limit their intake to less than 100mg per day.
A Prime spokesperson said: "Prime has two drinks on the market, PRIME Hydration and PRIME Energy.
"It is very important to make the distinction between the two products because they are vastly different.
"We started PRIME last year with the launch of Hydration, a healthier sports drink alternative that comes in a bottle.
"PRIME Energy, sold in a can, dropped in 2023 and contains a comparable amount of caffeine to other top selling energy drinks, all falling within the legal limit of the countries it’s sold in.
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"It complied with all FDA guidelines before hitting the market and states clearly on packaging, as well as in marketing materials, that it is an energy drink and is not made for anyone under the age of 18.
"As a brand, our top priority is consumer safety, so we welcome discussions with the FDA or any other organisation regarding suggested industry changes they feel are necessary in order to protect consumers."
The caffeine content of popular energy drinks
- Prime Energy – 200mg (355ml can)
- Red Bull – 80mg (250ml)
- Monster – 160mg (473ml)
- Nos – 160mg (473ml)
- Burn – 112mg (354ml)
- Rockstar – 300mg (473ml)
- Lucozade – 46mg (380ml)
- Coca Cola original – 32mg (330ml)
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