Aug. 29, 2023 – While federal regulators investigate the safety of Prime Energy drinks, which have become quite the rage among children at home and school, parents want to know: Are these beverages OK for my kid to drink?
Some parents report that their kids’ school has banned Prime drinks after reports of children becoming ill, with a few unverified reports of some children needing to go to the hospital, after consuming the drinks. The 12-ounce energy beverage contains 200 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly the same amount of caffeine as six 12-ounce cans of Coca- Cola (192 milligrams) or two 12-ounce cans of Red Bull (204 milligrams). The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages all children and adolescents from using caffeine and other stimulants.
Prime drinks are sold at major retailers, grocery stores, and some gas stations and convenience stores. They come in two varieties: an energy booster and a caffeine-free hydration drink.
The Prime drink craze went viral on TikTok after the product’s launch in 2022, with videos of children and teens excited about the products. More publicity for the drinks came this summer when Prime drinks partnered with the popular soccer team Futbol Club Barcelona.
The FDA began investigating Prime products after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sounded an alarm on the potential adverse health effects of the beverages in a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD. “One of the summer’s hottest status symbols for kids is not an outfit, or a toy – it’s a beverage,” Schumer wrote in July. “But buyers and parents beware because it’s a serious health concern for the kids it so feverishly targets.”
The founders, media personalities, and professional boxers Logan Paul and Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji (professionally known as KSI), say that FDA involvement is a “false narrative” spread by the media.
“Prime is not being investigated by the FDA,” Paul said in a Fox News interview this month. “The FDA has not even reached out to Prime … but the fact is, we are a legitimate business. We have nothing to hide, and we take quality and safety very seriously.”
The FDA has since released a statement saying the organization is reviewing the lawmaker’s concerns and will “respond to Schumer directly.”
(WebMD has reached out to PRIME founders for comment but had not heard back by the time of publication.)
Prime Hydration and Prime Energy – What’s the Difference?
Prime Hydration and Prime Energy are different types of beverages.
Prime Hydration contains 250 milligrams of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) – an essential nutrient well-known for muscle rebuilding and athletic performance. Along with 200 milligrams of caffeine, Prime Energy has zinc, antioxidants, and electrolytes, but no BCAAs.
Prime Hydration does not contain enough BCAAs to pose a health risk to children, said David Berger, MD, a pediatrician in Tampa, FL. BCAAs are usually safe for children and teens if taken in small doses and can actually help high-school athletes involved in sports that require a certain degree of strength and muscle development.
The concern about the Prime Hydration product is that it may be a “gateway” that leads some children to also try Prime Energy, said Jennifer L. Temple, PhD, an exercise and nutrition sciences professor at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Parents unfamiliar with the different ingredients in the two drinks could get confused by the products and assume they are more similar than they are, said Temple, who specializes in caffeine’s effects on children.
Keep in mind: It can also be challenging for doctors to pinpoint Prime, or any energy drink containing caffeine, as a major culprit in a sudden, severe illness, she said.
“It’s been one of the things that has been challenging when there’s been litigation against energy drink companies because the half-life of caffeine is so short, it is very difficult to definitively tie it to that.”
Children with health issues, such as tachycardia, a type of rapid heart rate, can become seriously ill after ingesting high amounts of caffeine, Berger said.
If children consume caffeine regularly, but have no medical conditions, they could have mild side effects such as anxiety, jitters, and insomnia, he said.