Red Bull confirms energy drink is cocaine-free

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Red bull functional beverage beverage

Under-fire Red Bull has moved to clear up some of the confusion surrounding traces of cocaine being found by German authorities in one of its brands.

Red Bull said concerns in some Asian countries that Red Bull was contaminated with cocaine were unfounded as it was Red Bull Simply Cola, not its flagship product, Red Bull Energy Drink, that had been found to contain traces of cocaine.

Despite these findings, German authorities have said there is no threat to public health and the legality of any ban has been questioned by trade groups and others.

The European netter nutrition lobby group, the Alliance for Natural Health, noted that a ban on a foodstuff cannot occur in the EU unless evidence of harm can be demonstrated which is not the case with Red Bull Simply Cola.

“It would have been absolutely impossible for Asian (or any other) authorities to have found traces of cocaine in Red Bull Energy Drink,”​ Red Bull said in a statement.

“We believe that Asian authorities mistakenly applied concerns about Red Bull Simply Cola to Red Bull Energy Drink, a completely different product with an entirely different formula. Nevertheless, we had Red Bull Energy Drink product samples from Asia analysed by an independent and accredited institute and confirmed that Red Bull Energy Drink does not contain any cocaine.”

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) tested Red Bull Energy Drink products and found no traces of cocaine.

Wings clipped

Red Bull hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last month when the food safety agency (LIGA) in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia detected 0.4 micrograms of cocaine per litre in Red Bull Simply Cola.

The German retailer, Rewe, pulled the product from shelves in six German states and bans followed in Jordan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

But Red Bull has pointed out the traces are related to its use of the decocainised coca leaf extracts, which are legal around the world and used by the world’s biggest cola makers.

Toxicologists have advised consumers would have to drink two million 250mL cans of Red Bull to imbibe enough cocaine to provoke an overdose.


Austria-based Red Bull has defended its use of what is commonly known as “decocainised coca leaf extract”

“Decocainised coca leaf extracts are used as flavouring in foodstuffs around the world and are considered to be safe (eg FDA Gras Status, Council of Europe). Red Bull Cola and other foodstuff containing such extracts may therefore be sold legally,” ​Red Bull said.

The energy drink giant said an assessment commissioned by the Austrian Belan Institute was unable to detect any trace of cocaine, “and consequently clearly contradicts the assessment furnished by LIGA.”

It has met yesterday with the Bavarian Ministry for Environment, Health, and Consumer Protection which is formally investigating the examination results.

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