(Prologue: I’ve got first-hand experience that a real understanding of the laws of karma can substantially change our lives for the better. I created this weblog to share information and personal experience with others. May it be beneficial!)
Karma isn’t just accumulated by individuals. It can be accumulated by groups as well. I believe that companies like Red Bull that make “energy drinks,” heavily laced with much more caffeine than regular soft drinks, are motivated by greed for money. So they “shoot the bull” and promote their drinks to impressionable adolescents as “harmless.” Just like the cigarette companies once did.
On January 6, 2008, my 15-year-old son Brian was competing in a day-long paintball tournament. Around noon, Red Bull representatives came into the venue and handed out free samples of energy drinks. The lead detective investigating Brian’s death stated that Brian was witnessed drinking one of these samples. My wife and I arrived around 4:00 p.m. to watch the semi-finals and finals. His team won second place overall for the day. At about 7:20 p.m., while waiting for the awards ceremony, and a victory team dinner, Brian collapsed and later died in hospital to an arrhythmic event that could not be corrected. <source: Jim Shepherd, Toronto, Canada>
Jim makes a promise to himself, his family, and his dead son Brian: he will work tirelessly to inform others of what he believes caused the death, or partially contributed to the death, of his son: energy drinks.
The Government of Canada’s Standing Committee on Health invites Jim to speak before them on June 08, 2010. A friend of his asks if I would like to help Jim with his speech. As I used to write speeches for a cabinet minister in the Government of Ontario, I’m glad to support Jim’s campaign against these deadly, dangerous drinks. He has five minutes to convince the Minister of Health, through this Standing Committee on Health, to regulate the companies that make “energy drinks.”
<Please note that I have added some bolding to Jim’s presentation.>
Standing Committee on Health
Comité permanent de la santé
EVIDENCE number 22,
Témoignages du comité numéro 22
UNEDITED COPY – COPIE NON ÉDITÉE
PUBLIC PART ONLY – PARTIE PUBLIQUE SEULEMENT
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 – Le mardi 8 juin 2010
* * *
We’ll now go to Mr. Shepherd.
Mr. James Shepherd (As an Individual): Thank you.
Good morning. I would like to thank the members of this committee for inviting me to follow up on the research paper that I sent March 2010 into the questionable nature of energy drinks.
In one 12-hour period, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., from January 6, 2008, I lost a vibrant, healthy, and much loved 15-year-old son. My son, Brian, died from an unexplained arrhythmia several hours after being witnessed drinking a Red Bull energy drink given to him in a free handout by Red Bull representatives.
I buried him. Then I did some research. I learned a lot. I learned that my late son is one of an ever-growing number of deaths where no one can find a definitive cause of death. Given the intake of an energy drink the day he died, I suspect that energy drinks were at least a contributing factor to his death, if not the whole cause. I’m disheartened by the information I’ve learned since Brian’s death and try to distill the essence of my research in a paper I submitted to this committee in March 2010.
Let me take you through some material by Refreshments Canada, an umbrella group for a wide variety of beverages including some energy drinks.
Claim number one, and I quote: “Energy drinks are currently sold in every major regulatory jurisdiction and in more than 150 countries around the world. Health authorities and scientific expert panels in these various jurisdictions around the world have assessed energy drinks and their ingredients and have concluded that energy drinks are a beverage that can be safely consumed”. False.
Claim number two, and I quote: “Energy drinks are formulated and recommended for adults”. False.
Claim number three, and I quote: “Our members fully support the International Council of Beverages Association guidelines regarding marketing and children that were adopted in 2008. The ICBA guidelines permit no marketing or advertising of beverages other than water, fruit juice, and berry-based beverages to children less than 12 years of age”. False.
Claim number four, and I quote: “Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages and are not recommended to be mixed with alcohol”. Intentionally misleading.
You’ll find an addendum at the end of these remarks that lists the sources I used for this section.
My main goal is to protect youth by keeping these products out of the hands of minors. How? By banning sales to minors. By placing restrictions on the advertising and marketing of energy products and by creating regulations that allow regulators to take potentially unsafe products off of the market immediately.
Recently Health Canada allowed the further use of caffeine in more soft drinks, a drug that leads to addiction and dependence. I remember when decades ago some courageous and discerning individual started to examine cigarette smoking in regard to a possible link to cancer. I’m going out on a limb here and predict there is a parallel between the past questioning around cigarette smoking and the present challenge to an increased use of caffeine. We will never be wrong if we act with what is called an abundance of caution, especially where children are concerned.
The methods we used in the past have proven ineffective at making positive change in our society. What are these methods? Essentially waiting until enough harm has occurred before we act. Instead, let’s act on what could be called the just-in-case principle. When something threatens harm, even though there’s no definitive proof, we take precautions just in case.
I ask this committee to carefully consider my energy drink concerns and return to Parliament with strong recommendations. One, to stop the abusive marketing and advertising to youth; two, to ensure that mistaken regulations like allowing the injection of caffeine in more soft drinks than in the past be changed and that unenforceable regulations are replaced; and three, to inspire your provincial counterparts by taking the lead in banning the sale to minors.
Please work together, regardless of party affiliation. Start by reversing the decision to allow the broader use of caffeine in all carbonated soft drinks. This can only lead to the further demise of health in our children. I promised my late son that I would continue to advocate for change until our youth are safe. I hope you will make my promise your promise.
I’m available to this committee at any time, and I thank you for your patience and your courtesy.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Shepherd, for giving us that presentation today. I know it must have been hard for you to do, but thank you for being here today.
If you are interested in reading more about energy drinks, here are some sources:
- Jim Shepherd’s Facebook page:
- Canadian Medical Association Journal report
- Metro News
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation item
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