AGs want to zap alcoholic energy drinks

John O'Brien Aug. 22, 2007, 2:00pm


HARTFORD, Conn. - Thirty state attorneys general have joined forces in urging a federal agency to take action against alcoholic energy drink manufacturers they say are making misleading statements about their products.

The group sent a letter to federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Administrator John Manfreda, claiming the drinks mimic the non-alcoholic energy drinks popular today.

"Beverage companies are fueling a runaway marketing train -- unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with outlandish and outrageous health-related claims about alcoholic energy drinks," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "Alcoholic energy drinks perniciously appeal to youth -- and beverage companies are clearly capitalizing on it.

"The TTB has acknowledged the dangers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks -- dangerously masking the adverse affects of alcohol -- but now it must take action to prevent these claims."

The attorneys general say companies like Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and Charge Beverages falsely believe their drinks are healthy.

"Combining alcohol with caffeine hardly seems healthy, and that false claim is what we seek to halt," Blumenthal said.

According to a report by The Associated Press, the companies think the attorneys general are worried about the wrong things. Anheuser-Busch Vice President Francine Katz said they should focus on preventing youths from gaining access to alcohol, especially hard liquor.

"This product is simply a malt beverage that contains caffeine, and is clearly marked as containing alcohol," she said in the report. "In fact, Bud Extra has less caffeine than a 12-ounce Starbucks coffee."

The attorneys general requested from the TTB an investigation into the ingredients of the alcoholic energy drinks to see if they are properly classified as malt beverages. They added that alcohol contributes to risky sexual behavior, poor school performance and other psychological and sociological dysfunctions among youth.

They worry that Sparks and Sparks Plus, produced by Miller, has an advertising scheme that centers on providing energy and includes packages designed to look like batteries.

Bud Extra, they say, makes claims about its stimulating effect with slogans like, "You can sleep when you're 30."

Liquid Charge and Liquid Core are manufactured by Charge, which makes the claim that the drinks have the most powerful formula available using only premium herbals.

The attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming all joined in the letter.

Blumenthal is no stranger to the energy drink business. He recently led a charge the marketing of the drink Cocaine, resulting in the product being pulled off Connecticut shelves. The product was mainly pulled because its manufacturer, Redux Beverages, was not licensed in the state.

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