Caffeine to be Removed from Sparks Beverage

MillerCoors says it is removing caffeine and other ingredients from its <"">Sparks alcoholic drink.  The move is part of an agreement with attorneys general in 25 states.  MillerCoors had been widely criticized for using ingredients like caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng in Sparks that could mask the beverage’s intoxicating affects.  The company also agreed not to make or market any caffeinated alcoholic beverages in the future.

According to The Chicago Tribune, last February, the attorneys general subpoenaed MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s biggest beermaker, seeking information about energy-alcohol drinks.

According to a MillerCoors press release, the agreement with the attorneys general contained no finding that the company engaged in unlawful behavior or marketed its Sparks brand to people below the legal drinking age. In a similar instance, Anheuser-Busch InBev recently reformulated its Tilt brand to remove caffeine and other ingredients.

Based on the agreement, MillerCoors said it will:

  • Discontinue manufacturing and marketing all caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including Sparks as currently formulated, by January 10, 2009.
  • Reformulate the Sparks brand to remove caffeine, guarana, ginseng and taurine.
  • Eliminate all references in advertising to caffeinated formulations and not promote Sparks as a mixer for caffeinated drinks.
  • Remove current content on the Sparks website. Any new website may only market the reformulated Sparks.
  • Eliminate the plus (+) and minus (-) symbols from the product label and marketing materials
  • Make a $550,000 payment to be distributed among the participating states to pay for the cost of the investigation.

Last fall, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors over the marketing and formulation of Sparks.  The lawsuit asked the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to stop MillerCoors from selling Sparks.  The advocacy group accused MillerCoors of appealing to young people through what it called Sparks’ “sweet citrusy taste.”

The advocacy group also claimed that Sparks beverage contained “unapproved” additives, including caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng.  The group argued  that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved  caffeine and guarana as an additive for alcoholic drinks, and has not approved ginseng in any food or beverage.

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