Red Bull Drink Raises Red Flag

ByABC News
July 17, 2001, 11:23 PM

July 18 -- At Cosmopolitan, a trendy bar in midtown Atlanta, the Red Bull is going fast. "People love it," says Cosmopolitan's owner Scott McCray. "It's the biggest craze I've seen in a long time."

Red Bull is popular all over the world. It's sold in more than 50 countries worldwide, including Europe, the United States and Australia. It's marketed as an "energy drink," and consumed by everyone from weightlifters to office workers needing an afternoon boost.

It is touted as improving reaction speed, concentration and mental alertness, and contains caffeine and other stimulants, as well as "important vitamins and carbohydrates," according to the company Web site.

And in bars from New York, to London to Los Angeles, it appears to be as much for people lifting cocktails as weights.

"It's not really good for you, but I don't really take that into consideration when I drink it at night," notes Red Bull drinker Dana Williams, 25, at the Cosmopolitan

But is it potentially dangerous? Swedish officials are investigating the deaths of three young people who are believed to have been drinking Red Bull. Two of the people who died had used Red Bull as a mixer with alcohol, while the third apparently drank several cans of the energy drink after a strenuous workout and later died of massive kidney failure.

France, Denmark and Norway allow Red Bull to be sold only in pharmacies. Greek officials last week recommended that the drink not be used after strenuous exercise or be mixed with alcohol, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also taking a look after the report of the Swedish deaths.

Still, it is too early to conclude that Red Bull by far the most popular of a slew of new "energy drinks" according to an industry association is the cause of the deaths, but it has caused some doctors to evaluate its health effects.

Company Claims Its Safe

The company says its product is safe. The Red Bull company Web site stresses that "no authority in the world has ever discovered or proven an unhealthy effect in or from Red Bull." It says the levels of caffeine and taurine, which is a naturally occurring amino acid, in the drink make it as safe as a cup of coffee.