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Brewer agrees to take the buzz out of Sparks

December 19, 2008|Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — MillerCoors said Thursday that it would remove caffeine and three other ingredients from its Sparks alcoholic energy drink in a deal with 13 states and the city of San Francisco, which had contended that the beverage targeted young drinkers.

A coalition of state attorneys general, including California's Jerry Brown, had complained that the stimulants reduced drinkers' sense of intoxication and were marketed to young drinkers, who were already more likely to engage in risky behaviors, notably while driving.

Attorneys general and advocacy groups have long been targeting MillerCoors and market-leader Anheuser-Busch Cos. over their making and marketing of such drinks.

As part of the agreement, MillerCoors agreed to remove caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng from Sparks, the leader in the alcoholic energy drink category, and not produce caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. The company also will pay $550,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into Sparks. The agreement does not mean the company was found to have engaged in unlawful behavior.

"They are fundamentally dangerous and put drinkers of all ages at risk," New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo said of the drinks.

The others in the MillerCoors settlement are the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma and the city attorney of San Francisco.

MillerCoors said it marketed the drinks only to legal-drinking-age consumers.

MillerCoors President Tom Long said in a statement that the changes meant the company could keep marketing and selling the brand to legal drinkers.

Anheuser-Busch said in June that it would reformulate its Tilt and Bud Extra drinks to remove the stimulants as part of a settlement with 11 attorneys general.

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