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Europe Attempts to Clip Red Bulls Wings

Europe Attempts to Clip Red Bulls Wings

VIENNA--Red Bull--a high energy drink containing amino acids and a high caffeine content--may be associated with three deaths in otherwise healthy people. According to the July 13 United Kingdom (U.K.) newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Sweden was prompted by these fatalities to issue a public warning against mixing Red Bull with alcohol or exercise.

The 8.3-oz. drink contains taurine, glucuronolactone, vitamins B12 and B6, and 80 mg of caffeine, which is twice that found in a similar serving of Mountain Dew. Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz first introduced the drink to Europe in 1987, basing his formula on T.C. Pharmaceuticals Thai tonic, Krating Daeng. In fact, Mateschitz received the international rights to market Krating Daeng as Red Bull in exchange for giving T.C. Pharmaceuticals a 51-percent stake in the new Red Bull GmBH. According to the Bangkok Post, Red Bull reportedly raked in a profit of $700 million in 1999.

Sweden issued its warning following three people who died after drinking the beverage. According to the Telegraph, two apparently healthy people died after drinking a vodka-Red Bull combo; the third person died after consuming three Red Bulls following a workout.

This follows an April 5 article in the U.K.s The Mirror, which suggested that numerous European countries, are also considering a ban on the high energy drink. The U.K.s Advertising Standards Authority also got into the act earlier this year by banning Red Bulls ads claiming the drink could improve concentration and endurance. The Mirror also stated that Norway has classified the drink as a medicine because of its high caffeine content. A ban has already been instituted in France against the drink, but Red Bull is currently contesting this ban in the European courts.

Even countries on the other side of the world are voicing concerns. The Australian New Zealand Food Authority stated that it had banned Red Bull from being produced in Australia; however, it can be produced in New Zealand, where it is regulated as a dietary supplement.

According to Red Bulls Web site (, the company has a different take on countries regulatory actions. Red Bull has never been banned, though sometimes it hasn't been authorized, the site stated. It takes a lot of time to get a completely new product, with special ingredients in a complex composition, through all the official channels. The site had no mention of the alleged ill effects of this product, other than it has been examined and reported on by experts in the fields of toxicology, internal medicine, psychiatry, neurology and sports medicine.

Recently, the company has moved from marketing itself as a vodka-mixer to being an energy enhancer for sports enthusiasts. In fact, the company sponsors several athletes and underwrites various sporting events. In view of these recent findings, this marketing strategy may be ill-suited for the drink. Conrad Earnest, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist for the CooperInstitute for Aerobics Research, stated that the high amount of caffeine found in Red Bull may have the same effects as an ephedra/caffeine combination, which has been allegedly been pinpointed behind numerous strokes and deaths. Within reason, caffeine is okay to consume before exercise, such as drinking a cup of coffee, Earnest explained. However, in exorbitant amounts, your nervous system gets over-taxed, potentially leading to adverse events.

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