MillerCoors settles with AGs, agrees to reformulate alcohol-spiked energy drinks

Chris Rizo Dec. 18, 2008, 9:53am

Terry Goddard (D-Ariz.)

Lisa Madigan (D-Ill.)

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline)-MillerCoors LLC has reached an agreement with 12 state attorneys general and the city of San Francisco to stop marketing caffeine-spiked alcoholic beverages, including its top-selling Sparks brand.

The Chicago-based beer giant, a joint venture between SABMiller PLC and Molson Coors Brewing Co., has come under fire from state officials who say the company is marketing the amped malt beverage to underage drinkers.

MillerCoors has agreed to voluntarily reformulate Sparks with a modified version that does not contain caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng by Jan. 10, 2009. The alcohol content of Miller Lite beer, a MillerCoors product, is 4.2 percent, while the content of Sparks is 8 percent.

"The combination of high caffeine with alcohol appeals to young people. I urge other companies to follow the lead of MillerCoors and voluntarily discontinue these unsafe beverages," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

The Democrat added that the will continue efforts to altogether remove the products from the market.

"I will continue to work with attorneys general nationwide to explore all options, including legal action, to remove these dangerous 'alco-pops' from the market and keep our young people safe," Goddard said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, another Democrat, said the alco-pops are "extremely dangerous" in the hands of youths.

"They contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed as way to 'power' your nights - by staying awake and drinking more alcohol," she said. "This is a completely inappropriate message to send to younger audiences."

The settlement with the attorneys general contained no finding that the company broke any laws. The brewer has agreed to make a $550,000 payment to be distributed among the participating states to pay for the cost of their investigation.

The investigation was led by Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe, the outgoing co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee.

In a statement, MillerCoors said the settlement allows the company to continue marketing and selling Sparks to consumers of legal drinking age.

"As a responsible company, we are always willing to listen to societal partners and consider changes to our business to reinforce our commitment to alcohol responsibility," said Tom Long, president and chief commercial officer of MillerCoors.

"While we have listened closely to the (attorneys general) and respect their position, we strongly disagree with their inaccurate allegations about the marketing and sale of Sparks," he said.

In addition to Goddard and Madigan, the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma, and the city attorney of San Francisco also participated in the settlement.

Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest U.S. beer maker, agreed to stop making caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including Tilt and Bud Extra, in a similar settlement.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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