Red Bull banned in Germany

Red Bull, the top-selling energy beverage in the U.S. and a drink that was banned in France until 2008, has now been pulled off retail shelves in Germany after researchers found trace amounts of cocaine in the drink, reports Nutrition Business Journal. Food safety officials in the North Rhine-Westphalia state found 0.4 micrograms of cocaine per liter during routine testing of the beverage.

Red Bull refutes the claims. “Decocainised coca leaf extracts are used as flavoring in foodstuffs around the world and are considered to be safe,” the company said in a statement. “Red Bull Cola and other foodstuff containing such extracts may therefore be sold legally.” Other tests commissioned by the company found no cocaine in the beverage.

A more detailed report from Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment is due today, meanwhile, regulatory officials here in the U.S. and competitors in the energy beverage market, await the decision.

If Red Bull were banned in the U.S., a large void in the energy beverage market would be created. U.S. consumers spent $1.5 billion on Red Bull beverages in 2007, according to Nutrition Business Journal estimates, and the popular brand accounted for 32 percent of all energy beverage sales ($4.6 billion) in the U.S. in 2007. Red Bull’s largest competitor is Hansen Beverage Co., manufacturer of the Monster Energy drink.