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CSPI says it will sue Anheuser-Busch, Miller over contents of “energy” drinks

By William Brand
Thursday, February 28th, 2008 at 10:44 am in Uncategorized.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said today its lawyers are suing Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing because its “energy” drinks contain additives such as caffeine, taurine and ginseng _ substances not approved for use in alcoholic drinks.

No comment yet from either A-B or Miller. I’ve never even tasted these “alcopops” and don’t intend to., But here’s the essential part of the news release from CSPI:

Drinks such as Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Extra and Tilt, and Miller’s Sparks, have more alcohol than beer and contain stimulant additives that are not officially approved for use in alcoholic drinks, including caffeine, taurine, ginseng, or guarana.

No studies are available to support the safety of consuming those stimulants and alcohol together—but new research does indicate that the young consumers of what CSPI calls “alcospeed” are more likely to binge drink, become injured, ride with an intoxicated driver, or be taken advantage of sexually than drinkers of conventional alcoholic drinks. And the viral marketing campaigns behind the drinks are clearly designed to appeal to young, and often underage, drinkers, according to CSPI.Miller Sparks

CSPI will seek a permanent injunction prohibiting the companies from combining stimulants with alcohol and disgorgement of the companies’ profits from Bud Extra, Tilt, and Sparks into a charitable fund.

“This is just the latest and one of the more sinister attempts by alcohol producers to prey on a new generation of future problem drinkers,” said George A. Hacker, director of CSPI’s alcohol policies project. “This is an industry that wants its consumers young and it wants them hooked. And alcospeed contains two addictive ingredients in one sunny container, and several other stimulants that are not even approved for use.”

“The companies are also being investigated by 16 state attorneys general, who recently subpoenaed internal company documents pertaining to the products’ sales and marketing. Last August, a task force of 30 state attorneys general warned the companies that “adding caffeine and other stimulants to alcohol may increase the risk to young consumers because those additives tend to reduce the perception of intoxication and make greater quantities of alcohol palatable.”

A previous probe, along with criticism from CSPI and other health groups, prompted Anheuser-Busch to remove a similar product, Spykes, from the marketplace. Spykes came packaged in fingernail-polish sized bottles with alcohol concentration of 12 percent and with the stimulants caffeine, ginseng, and guarana.

“Short of decorating these cans with Hannah Montana or Spiderman, it’s hard to see how you could do a better job of marketing alcospeed to young people than Anheuser-Busch and Miller are doing,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. “The cans are virtually indistinguishable from several non-alcoholic energy drinks that are heavily marketed to young people. They have a sugary taste, and colors that make it look more like Mountain Dew or Orange Crush than regular beer. It’s a recipe for disaster and the companies should be held accountable.”

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