Red Bull and Co.'s dangerous stimulant

Red Bull Energy Drinks and Shots, © Ivan Miladinovic /

The problem

„Energy drinks“ from manufacturers like Red Bull are very popular with consumers – particularly children and young people. So-called „energy shots“ have been on the market for a few years now. The small bottles contain caffeine and taurine in particularly strong concentrations. But both energy shots and conventional energy drinks are suspected of causing heart arrhythmias, seizures, kidney failure and even death. With shots, the danger of an overdose is particularly great. The increased caffeine content is not the only problem: there are also health risks involved with possible interactions with the highly concentrated taurine that they contain as well as with accompanying alcohol consumption.

The current situation

In May 2012, the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Affairs issued maximum values for contents such as caffeine and taurine in energy drinks. Manufacturers are getting around this regulation, however, by classifying shots officially as dietary supplements. The Red Bull Energy Shot, for example, contains more than four times as much caffeine and taurine per litre than is permitted for energy drinks.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) classified energy shots as „not safe“ in an investigation in December 2009 on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Affairs and supported a ban: since a warning on the packaging is not sufficient to rule out an overdose, the scientists recommended that „energy shot products be banned from being placed on the market“. The French food authority ANSES also warned in 2013 that the safety of the products could not be guaranteed. In the USA, the responsible Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is determining whether several deaths were triggered by energy drinks.

At the request of foodwatch, in January 2013 the BfR confirmed its fundamentally critical assessment of the products – but deviated (with no further reason given) from its original demand for a ban on shots and only recommended instead that „suitable warnings be placed on the label“.

What foodwatch is calling for

For precautionary health protection, urgent action is needed! foodwatch is demanding a general sales ban on energy shots. In addition, conventional energy drinks should have a clear warning on the packaging and should be available for sale only to people who are 18 years of age and over.

Last update July 04, 2013

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