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States target Spykes drink

May 11, 2007|From the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Attorneys general in California and 26 other states urged Anheuser-Busch Cos. to issue warnings about mixing alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks, such as its new Spykes flavored malt beverage drink.

In a letter to the company Thursday, state officials accused the beer company of marketing Spykes and other products to underage drinkers and failing to deter minors from using them.

It's the latest criticism of Spykes, a 2-ounce bottle of flavored malt beverage meant to be mixed with beer or other drinks, or consumed as a shot. With colorful packaging and four flavors -- lime, mango, melon and hot chocolate -- Spykes measures 12% alcohol by volume. The St. Louis-based maker of Budweiser and Bud Light rolled out the product broadly last year.

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said the health warnings on the bottles were too small.

"Such indecipherable labeling certainly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the regulations that require those warnings," Brown said in a statement.

Francine Katz, Anheuser-Busch's vice president for communications, said critics misunderstand the behavior of underage drinkers.

"They drink for instant impact," Katz said. "The fact that Spykes are sold in 2-ounce bottles and thus have a total alcohol content equivalent to one-third of a glass of wine makes it much less likely that illegal underage drinkers will choose Spykes as opposed to a 70- to 80-proof hard liquor product."

Spykes also contains caffeine, ginseng and guarana, which are components of energy drinks.

Blumenthal said Thursday that the attorneys general were also considering a lawsuit because the size of the bottle makes the warning labels on the product "virtually illegible."

Anheuser-Busch said it was replacing the label.

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