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Red Bull Cola has extra jolt

May 23, 2009

German food regulators discovered traces of cocaine in cans of Red Bull Cola and the energy drink has been ordered off the shelves in some states.

Cocaine powder
Cocaine traces in Red Bull Cola are "not harmful, but violate food law."Image: BilderBox

Officials in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate have banned the drink after health officials noted trace amounts of cocaine in cans of the cola.

"The coke is not harmful, but it violates food law," said Thomas Schulz, a spokesman for the Thuringian Ministry of Health.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Health and Work (LIGA) found traces of cocaine, from a leaf stem that had supposedly had all the cocaine extracted from it. Therefore, according to the ministry, the cola should not be be classified as a food product, but falls instead under the jurisdiction of the German Narcotics Act.

Farmer with burlap bag of coca leaves
Coca leaf is used worldwide as food additiveImage: AP

"Coca leaf extracts, without the active ingredient of cocaine, are used worldwide for food flavorings and are completely safe," a Red Bull spokesman told the Frankfurter Neue Presse newspaper.

In the German state of Hesse, the Ministry of the Environment in Wiesbaden said on Friday, May 22, that it had confirmed the presence of the coca leaf extract in the drink. It noted that it was part of the recipe and that the product was not contaminated. Therefore they have not issued a warning, but have ordered a recall of the product.

Officials at Red Bull took a different view of the situation, and said that they had a different interpretation of the legality of coca products being used as flavorings.

"We are of the opinion that our product is marketable," Frank Farnsteiner, a spokesman for Red Bull, told German public radio.

Editor: Andreas Illmer