Consumer Law

Red Bull delivers no more energy than coffee, lawsuit alleges


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Photo: Arne Müseler / arne-mueseler.de.

A class action lawsuit filed on Tuesday seeks to ground marketing claims by the makers of Red Bull that the energy drink “gives you wings.”

According to the suit filed in Manhattan federal court, Red Bull claims its mixture of ingredients improves physical and mental performance. But the suit claims the popular drink is no better at providing energy than a cup of coffee, Reuters reports.

The suit cites recent reports in the scientific journal Nutrition Reviews and in the New York Times suggesting that proof of Red Bull’s superiority is lacking.

An article posted on Red Bull’s U.S. website touts the drink’s ability to improve endurance performance, the suit says. “However, one foundation of the article’s premise is a ‘scientific study’ that only compared ingestion of Red Bull Energy Drink to ingestion of a flavored placebo containing none of the Red Bull Energy Drink ingredients,” the suit says. “Thus, nothing in that ‘scientific study’ supports the premise that Red Bull’s ingredients do anything more for athletic performance than a cup of coffee.”

The New York Times article did cite a pair of 40-year-old studies from Japan of an additive called glucuronolactone, which is related to glucose. Scientists in the study injected large doses of the substance into lab rats and found they swam better.

Another energy drink additive that was first found in the bile of pit bulls, taurine, does play a role in bodily functions and might help prevent heart attacks in women with high cholesterol, the Times said. But most people get more than they need from their daily diet.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Benjamin Careathers of the Bronx, who has been drinking Red Bull since 2002.

“Defendants take advantage of every marketing avenue the modern age has opened to them in order to ensure that their false and deceptive marketing message permeates the general consumer consciousness,” the suit says. Despite the lack of evidence supporting drink claims, “the Red Bull defendants persistently and pervasively market their product as a superior source of ‘energy’ worthy of a premium price,” the complaint alleges.

Red Bull officials did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

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