Red Bull is being blackmailed

Extortionists threaten to add a nasty new ingredient to the energy drink unless the company pays up.

By Jason Notte Mar 15, 2013 4:51PM
Red Bull drink cans are seen in a supermarket. Credit: © Leonhard Foeger/ReutersRed Bull's makers claim they're being blackmailed by someone threatening to taint the energy drink with some awful substance.

No, that foreign agent isn't more taurine or an extra backhoe of sugar.

Officials at Red Bull's headquarters in Vienna say extortionists have threatened to dump fecal matter into the energy drink unless they get paid off, according to Reuters. The perpetrators told Red Bull where the compromised cans would end up, but checks of Red Bull supplies at those stores turned up nothing unusual.

The threats have been under investigation since early March, but the motive behind them hasn't been nearly as tough to parse. According to Forbes, Red Bull sales grew 12% in 2011 to $5.6 billion Meanwhile, Red Bull co-founder Dieter Mateschitz has a net worth of $7.1 billion. That makes him Austria's richest person and the 162nd-wealthiest in the world.

The company doesn't exactly keep a low profile, either. Red Bull has slapped its name on professional soccer teams, sponsored daredevil Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive from near space and has a Formula 1 racing team starting its season this weekend. It's also part of an energy drink industry that has come under increased scrutiny in recent months.

Back in January, a U.S. consumer filed suit against the company claiming its products don't have as much caffeine content as buyers are led to believe. That's a fairly light accusation by energy drink standards, especially when The New York Times reports that not only does 5-Hour Energy face similar claims, but that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating 5-Hour Energy's role in the deaths of 13 people in the last four years.

Monster Energy (MNST) is also under scrutiny. It saw its stock plummet in October after the FDA confirmed "adverse incident reports" of five deaths involving Monster energy drinks. The company is now being sued by the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died from heart problems in December 2011 after drinking Monster Energy on two consecutive days. Monster disputes the connection between her death and the drink.

According to The Telegraph, an Austrian newspaper received an email from the Red Bull blackmailers on Feb. 27 stating that "we have already contaminated several cans of Red Bull" with human feces containing the hepatitis A virus. The email warned that the cans "would be bought and consumed in the next couple of days."

Thus far, the blackmailers have focused attention on Red Bull supplies in stores in Salzburg and Vienna. Neither Austrian newspapers nor police have indicated if the threats involve products overseas as well.

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Mar 16, 2013 5:30PM
I stopped watching Today, because of Matt.  He's smug and tries to play the gotcha game with guests.  I watch CBS now much more adult.  You want to kill a great game show, Well do you feel Lucky?
Mar 16, 2013 1:03PM
Matt Laur makes me sick he thinks he knows it all. Matt needs to go to the pasture like they Did Ann Curry.. By the way it was nice to see her again Ann Curry on Rock center last night. As far as a replacement I think  Ryan Seacrest would be just as bad of a choice for Matts replacement He is dragging down the Idol show as well. David Gregory would be a bad choice as well we never watch meet the press sence he is on it. David Gregory could be replaced by Chuck Todd as least he does not show his side like Gregory. It has been bad ever sence the loss of Russert. As far as the morning show the best male for that job would be Anderson Cooper. We also are glad to see a lot less of  Meredith Vieira. Sorry to say it but she makes me sick to.
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