Lawsuit says Red Bull is too wimpy

A complaint in a New York federal court calls out the energy drink for having less caffeine than a cup of coffee.

By Jason Notte Jan 17, 2013 3:35PM
Credit: QMI Agency/Rex Features
Caption: Red Bull energy drinksRed Bull is learning what its competition just recently discovered: The U.S. energy drink market is a downer these days.

Red Bull is the target of a lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims the company's "Red Bull gives you wings" slogan is false advertising, according to Reuters, because the energy drink contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.

The lead plaintiff, Benjamin Careathers of the Bronx, N.Y., has been drinking Red Bull since 2002 and filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York because he and others in the lawsuit feel the $2.19 price per can isn't getting them enough caffeine.

This is the exact opposite of the problem faced by Red Bull rivals Monster Energy (MNST) and 5-Hour Energy, both of which have been scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration for packing their drinks with caffeine. The 5-Hour Energy shots have had their "no crash" claim questioned in the New York Times by a national advertising group and have been the subject of reports to the FDA during the last four years citing the possible role of 5-Hour Energy in 13 deaths.

Monster, meanwhile, saw its stock plummet in October after the FDA confirmed "adverse incident reports" of five deaths involving Monster energy drinks. Monster is now being sued by the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who suffered heart problems in December 2011 after drinking Monster Energy on two consecutive days.

The FDA limits caffeine content in soda and considers 71 milligrams per 12 ounces safe for consumption. Energy drinks contain significantly more caffeine, but exploit a loophole in the FDA's caffeine guidelines, labeling themselves "diet supplements," to avoid the limit. For example, 24-ounce Monster drinks contain almost seven times as much caffeine as the most caffeinated sodas.

By comparison, an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine. That roughly 9.5 milligrams per ounce still exceeds the 5.9 milligrams found in an ounce of high-caffeine soda. The lawsuit claims, however, that a tablet of regular strength NoDoz contains 100 milligrams of caffeine and costs only 30 cents.

"Even a 12 ounce serving of Starbucks (SBUX) coffee costs $1.85 and would contain far more caffeine than a regular serving of Red Bull," the lawsuit says. It has a point. A cup of Starbucks regular Pike Place Roast that size has 260 milligrams of caffeine, or more than three times than of a can of Red Bull.

The plaintiffs want Red Bull to stop the "gives you wings" campaign, which would likely put a serious crimp in its annual Red Bull Air Race and its Flugtag airborne soap box derby. More importantly, though, those named in the lawsuit are also asking for an unspecified refund.

Energy drinks make up only 3.3% of soft drink sales, according to Beverage Digest, but sales of the caffeine-laden products rose 17% 2011. Monster and Red Bull both reported double-digit percentage point sales increases in the last year, but the recent spate of energy drink lawsuits suggest a caffeine crash may be coming.

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I've known this fact since I started drinking Red Bull in college.  It's about the only energy drink that actually works without making me totally bounce off the walls.  Caffeine is only good for so much.  I know there are people who will argue it's placebo, but it works for me.
Jan 17, 2013 8:47PM
2.19? It's 2.99-4.99 here. The better lawsuit would have been that it is addictive. They put the ingredients on the can. If you can't read too bad.
Jan 17, 2013 8:45PM
If you don't like it, don't BUY IT! This should NOT be allowed to even enter the court system. It is ignorant people like this that cause the back log in our court system. No one has a gun to his head to buy, so doe us all a favor and  GO AWAY and buy something else. It is not false advertising, it is JUST advertising.
Jan 17, 2013 8:37PM
Why on earth would any parent let their child drink that toxic sludge? Are they completely lacking in any parental skills? Don't buy it, don't drink it, don't let your Underage Children buy it or drink it, problem solved.
Jan 17, 2013 7:36PM

this is something should be banned for anyone under 21 years of age! this junk is not good for kids with all the caffine and other things in

it. they will have heart issues earlier in life! and should be banned in bars mixing with alcohol! twice as dangerous! this is what's wrong with

kids and young adults! most kids didn't even drink coffee when i was young now every kid drinks it like it's milk! it's sad parents can't even

control their kids anymore and then expect govt to fix everything. wait til obamacare kicks in see how much the left democrats love you!

First time I've ever seen someone complaining about these drinks being weak.
Jan 17, 2013 7:00PM
If the plaintiff could read the p has known all along how much caffeine was in the drink and how much was in other drinks. It seems that all people care about these days is who can I sue. Probably doesn't even realize most oh the payday will go to the lawyer if BIG if he gets one. People must take some responsibility for themselves. Come on ten years and now suing.
Jan 17, 2013 6:56PM
This is such bullshift. Too many sue happy Americans in this country out to steal other peoples money one way or another. People die every day due to car accedents but you don't see any lawsuits being filed against the car manufactures. So stupid. If I were the judge I'd laugh and throw out the case as well as the one concerning Monster Energy drinks.
Jan 17, 2013 6:32PM
It still goes great with vodka.  Mmmmm....Redbull Stoli....aghhhaghhghghhg.
Jan 17, 2013 6:29PM
really; someone  thought the slogan;"Redbull gives you wings" was true? Go to MickeyD's in chitcago they got dim dar wings!
Jan 17, 2013 5:31PM
No one forced the plaintiff to buy it or drink it.  If he doesn't like the product, then don't consume it.  It's very simple.  Oh, but wait!  That wouldn't get him the payday, would it?
Jan 17, 2013 5:15PM
Taurine has always been a key ingredient in many energy drinks. It increases the heart rate and gives a boost to metabolism. From the start Red Bull has always referenced taurine, not caffeine, as the ingredient most responsible for giving their product the ability to give a person the feeling of increased energy. Ridiculous law suit!!
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