A product liability lawsuit has been filed against MillerCoors, the makers of the alcoholic energy drink Sparks, alleging that the beverage poses serious health and safety risks.
Sparks is a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, which is among a growing list of popular energy drinks that have caused concerns about health risks they may cause. Sparks is the top seller in its category, with a market share of 60%. It has been marketed and sold by MillerCoors, a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing, since it was acquired from McKenie River Corp. in 2006.
Energy drinks contain very high levels of caffeine and often have other additives, such as ginseng, taurine and carnitine, which could act as stimulants. They are heavily marketed towards teenagers and young adults to provide a boost of energy.
Since 2000, the energy drink industry has grown over 700 percent and according to a 2006 report in Fortune magazine, the industry is now worth about $2.5 billion.
The Washington-based consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors in the District of Columbia Superior Court, claiming that Sparks contains unauthorized additives and poses a safety and health risk to consumers. The lawsuit also alleges Sparks is actively marketed to minors and other young people. Sparks contains 6–7% alcohol by volume while a typical beer contains about 3-5% alcohol by volume.
In June 2008, Anheuser-Busch agreed to stop selling similar alcoholic energy drinks marketed as Bud Tilt and Bud Extra, after they faced similar lawsuits filed by advocacy groups and state attorney generals. The Bud energy drink lawsuit also claimed that the drinks containing both alcohol and caffeine may adversely affect the health and safety of consumers.
The best known energy drinks are non-alcoholic variety, such as Red Bull, Redline, Rockstar and Full Throttle. However, even these non-alcoholic versions are often mixed with alcohol and they are usually heavily promoted in clubs and bars.
Last month, a study by the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia found that just one can of the caffeinated energy drink Red Bull could increase the risk of stroke or a heart attack. Their research found that it could cause the blood to become sticky, increasing the risk of clotting.
MillerCoors maintains that its Sparks formulation has been approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and that its marketing is responsible and aimed at adults over the legal drinking age.