An energy drink backed by two YouTube stars that has earned viral popularity among children is facing scrutiny from lawmakers and health experts over its potentially dangerous levels of caffeine.
A US senator has called on the country’s Food and Drug Administration to investigate Prime, a beverage brand founded by Logan Paul and KSI, that has become something of an obsession among the influencers’ legions of young followers.
“One of the summer’s hottest status symbols for kids is not an outfit, or a toy – it’s a beverage,” said Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York.
“But buyer and parents beware because it’s a serious health concern for the kids it so feverishly targets.”
Backed by two of YouTube’s best known stars, Prime was an immediate sensation when it launched last year, prompting long lines in supermarkets and reports of school playground resale markets.
Advertising itself as zero sugar and vegan, the neon-coloured cans are among a growing number of energy drinks with elevated levels of caffeine; in Prime’s case, 200 milligrams per 12 ounces, equivalent to about half-a-dozen Coke cans or nearly two Red Bulls.
This high content prompted bans from some schools in the UK and Australia where some paediatricians warned of possible health impacts on young children including heart problems, anxiety and digestive issues.
Meanwhile, company representatives have defended the product as clearly labelled “not recommended for children under 18”.
They sell a separate sports drink, known as Prime Hydration, which contains no caffeine at all.
But in his letter to the FDA, Mr Schumer claimed there was little noticeable difference in the online marketing of the two drinks – leading many parents to believe they were purchasing a juice for their kids, only to wind up with a “cauldron of caffeine”.
“A simple search on social media for Prime will generate an eye-popping amount of sponsored content, which is advertising,” he wrote.
“This content and the claims made should be investigated, along with the ingredients and the caffeine content in the Prime energy drink.”
A representative for Prime said it was “very important” to make the distinction between the company’s 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,” they said.
“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.
“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 organization regarding suggested industry changes they feel are necessary in order to protect consumers.”