Deaths give rise to worries about energy drink safety
Concerns about the health effects of energy drinks have been raised after at least three deaths have been allegedly linked to Red Bull.
Sweden's National Food Administration has launched an investigation into Red Bull and issued a public warning urging people not to drink it with alcohol or after exercise.
Reports from Sweden claim that two people, both thought to be in good health, died after drinking Red Bull with vodka while a third died having drunk several cans following a strenuous gym session.
A Red Bull spokesperson insisted that the product was safe and had been comprehensively tested. She added: "There's absolutely no proof that any of the deaths can be tied to Red Bull and there's never been any link whatsoever in 14 years of sales."
The British Food Standards Agency has ruled out plans for a similar inquiry here. The autopsies on the two deaths, which are due out in August, will focus on two of Red Bull's main ingredients, taurine and caffeine, and the ramifications of mixing them with alcohol.
While taurine is considered safe in small doses, caffeine can raise both the heart rate and blood pressure and heighten the risk of coronary heart disease in later life. Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association said: "People who drink energy drinks with alcohol get a double whammy. Both caffeine and alcohol have a dehydrating effect and due to the link with extreme sports and fast-paced lifestyles, people often think they can drink it to replace lost fluids and that's not the case.
"We need the inquiry and the British Dietetic Association welcomes it. The European Commission has expressed concern about the recent rise in energy drinks as no-one really knows the effects of mixing them with alcohol."
A sizeable proportion of the 300 million cans of Red Bull expected to be sold this year will be consumed with alcohol - mostly vodka - despite the fact that it has never been actively marketed as a mixer.
"We don't market it as alcohol - we market it as a soft drink," added a company spokesperson. "We know that there's no effect of mixing alcohol with Red Bull although it might impair the effects of Red Bull."
Red Bull is trying to overturn legislation in France, Denmark and Norway where the product is unavailable in bars and classified as a medicine due to its high caffeine content.
In Austria, Red Bull has launched a range of mineral waters that it claims will only be bottled "under the glare of the full moon".
If LunAqua Pure Element and LunAqua Dynamic - which contains a caffeine boost equivalent to a can of cola - prove successful, they will be introduced into UK bars and nightclubs.