(Phoenix, Ariz. – May 10, 2007) Attorney General Terry Goddard today criticized Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. for producing and promoting alcohol energy drinks containing caffeine and other stimulants. Citing serious health concerns, Goddard called on the company to provide readable warning labels that alert consumers about the health risks posed by these products.
In a letter to Anheuser-Busch, Goddard, along with 28 other state Attorneys General, noted that medical doctors and public health professionals have warned that combining caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol – a practice popular among young people – poses significant health and safety risks. The stimulant in the energy drink may skew a person’s sense of alertness – without reducing the adverse effect of the alcohol on that person’s motor skills or ability to react quickly.
Anheuser-Busch’s caffeinated alcoholic beverages include Spykes, TILT and Bud Extra. These drinks with a caffeine kick are similar in nature to non-alcoholic energy drinks currently popular with youth under 21. They are primarily marketed on Web sites featuring music particularly popular with young people.
“These alcoholic energy drinks are promoted and packaged in a way that is highly attractive to those not old enough to drink alcohol legally,” Goddard said. “Drinks such as Spykes plainly appeal to children in both taste and appearance – and their caffeine content dangerously masks the effects of the alcohol. If Anheuser-Busch is going to hold itself out as a partner in the fight against underage drinking, then it must stop marketing drinks that so strongly appeal to the young.”
Spykes is available only in fruit and chocolate flavors and comes in small, attractive, brightly colored, plastic containers that can be easily concealed in a pocket or purse. Advertisements for Spykes, TILT and Bud Extra also tout the products’ caffeine content and other additives that youth are likely to associate with popular non-alcoholic energy drinks. Spykes contains 12 percent alcohol by volume – more than twice that of most flavored malt beverages and beers.
Because they are designated as flavored malt beverages, Spykes and similar drinks can be sold inexpensively and – in many states – distributed to grocery stores and convenience stores, where they may be more readily seen and purchased by underage consumers than if they were sold only in liquor stores.
The letter to Anheuser-Busch raises specific concerns about the illegible health warnings on the Spykes product. Recently, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau made clear that it agreed with these concerns, finding that several Spykes labels violate federal law. Anheuser-Busch has agreed to stop production of the labels and replace them. The Attorneys General called upon the company to act promptly to address their remaining concerns about the marketing of these products.
A copy of the letter to Anheuser-Busch is attached.