Anheuser Criticized Over Alcohol-Caffeine Drinks

By Mary Jane Credeur
Bloomberg News
Friday, May 11, 2007

Twenty-nine state attorneys general urged Anheuser-Busch yesterday to warn buyers of Spykes and other alcoholic drinks combined with caffeine about the dangers of mixing the two substances.

Anheuser's Spykes, Tilt and Bud Extra should have labels saying the drinks may make people feel less impaired than they are, the officials said in a letter to the company. Among the attorneys general signing the letter were officials from Maryland and the District.

The drinks also attract consumers younger than the legal drinking age of 21 because they look like other caffeinated energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Rockstar, the letter said. The fruity or chocolate flavors, colorful packaging and online marketing campaigns also appeal to teenagers, the letter said.

Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman Francine Katz said the St. Louis company does not endorse underage drinking and does not target minors. She said Spykes shots, which are sold in 2-ounce bottles and have as much alcohol as a third of a glass of wine, are less likely to appeal to minors, who typically "drink for instant impact."

"It's also puzzling why the attorneys general would single out Spykes for their concern about caffeine," she said. "Adults have been drinking rum and cola, espresso martinis, black Russians and Irish coffee for decades."

Spykes, which comes in spicy mango and chocolate flavors, is marketed as a "youth-oriented 'starter drink,' " the attorneys general said.

The attorneys general also criticized the packaging, "tiny, attractive, brightly colored containers that can be easily concealed in a pocket or purse," and said "the product's designation as a flavored malt beverage allows Anheuser-Busch to sell Spykes inexpensively, and to distribute it, in many states, to grocery stores and convenience stores, where it may be more readily seen and purchased by underage youth than if it were sold only in liquor stores."

The attorneys general did not make specific recommendations about what Anheuser should do to avoid appealing to minors.

The combination of alcohol and caffeine in Spykes, Tilt and Bud Extra may "cause the consumer to feel alert" even when he or she is drunk and shouldn't drive, the attorneys general said.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who represents Anheuser's home state, did not sign the letter. Nixon's spokesman, John Fougere, declined to comment.

Anheuser-Busch closed yesterday at $49.87 per share, down 9 cents.

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