Energy drink big boys unfazed by Euro review

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Red bull, Caffeine

Red Bull says it is not concerned over an upcoming European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review the use of ingredients like taurine and glucuronolactone in energy drinks and remains committed to EU expansion.

The claims come amidst increasing scrutiny of energy drink formulations from both Europe and the US, with health groups and risk assessors alike preparing to review their opinions on the segment, due to concerns over consumption.

Red bullish

Redbull spokesperson Femke Doeksen told that the continued success of its flagship energy drink brand across the globe was testament to both consumer and government acceptance of the product’s safety.

“Last year alone, over three and a half billion cans and bottles of Red Bull energy drink were consumed in over 143 countries across the world and no one anywhere has ever shown any link between Red Bull energy drink and harmful effects,”​ she stated.

Red Bull said that it therefore remained committed to its long-term goal of expanding into every single European market, an ambition still held back in some countries by fears over the product’s safety.

Stimulant worries

Concern has particularly arisen over the stimulant affects related to heavy consumption of the caffeinated products, with Neil Harrison, professor of molecular neuropharmacology at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, calling for more research on the products.

"I think it would be a good idea for somebody to do some more detailed investigations of its cardiovascular effects," ​he stated.

Concerns such as these have already seen difficulties for Red Bull in France, where it was only permitted from the middle of this year to sell the product with its original taurine-based formulation.

The company claims that the ongoing resistance to its presence in France is an isolated case, though the drink remains prohibited in both Denmark and Norway.

While Red Bull, due no doubt to its relative market dominance, has bared the brunt of a number of attacks on the industry, it is not the only brand of stimulant beverage to receive criticism over its operations.


The controversial energy drink called Cocaine, which while drug-free, contains 350 per cent more caffeine than rival brand Red Bull, last month hit UK shelves amidst a wave of criticism from politicians over the launch.

As the namesake of an illegal drug, the product has generated no end of headlines over its branding, but the attacks also reflect wider potential health concerns over the consumption of high-caffeine, so-called ‘energy drink’ products.

Jamey Kirby, a spokesperson for Las Vegas-based Redux, which manufactures Cocaine, said that he was surprised by European objections to the caffeine content in the product, as opposed to other non-energy-drink beverages.

Kirby claimed that the drink, which with 280mg of caffeine has 3.5 times the stimulant content of Red Bull, is sold in about 17 international markets, but is not any worse than some popular forms of coffee on the market.

“A Starbucks 16 OZ coffee has about 375 mg of caffeine and a Starbucks 20 OZ coffee has over 500mg of caffeine,”​ he stated. “We have less caffeine than many coffee drinks. I cannot imagine why our drink would have a problem with caffeine levels.”

The figures on caffeine content were not able to be confirmed by Starbucks at the time of publication.

He added that Redux’s products complied with European regulations on energy drink labelling that requires beverages containing more than 150mg/l of caffeine to state that there is ‘high caffeine content’ in the product.

The EC said that the labelling was not required for beverages based on tea or coffee extracts that clearly note either beverage on its packaging.

Industry view

The British Soft Drink Association (BSDA), which represents a number of manufacturers in the sector, said that it would happily work with EFSA on their proposed review of energy drink ingredients.

Group spokesperson Richard Laming claimed that the products were ‘quite safe’ for human consumption, made from naturally occurring substances.

“There is an extensive set of regulations regarding composition and labelling with which the industry complies,”​ he stated. “In fact, many companies go further and label their drinks as being not recommended for children or persons sensitive to caffeine.”

Related topics: Energy & Sports, Markets, Ingredients

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