Anheuser Busch has responded to recent legal threats from an activist group in the US over its caffeinated alcoholic drinks, suggesting the group is simply interested in generating publicity.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said last week that drinks such as A-B's Bud Extra and Tilt and Miller's Sparks, contain stimulant additives that are "not officially approved for use in alcoholic drinks," referring to the beverages as "alcospeed".

However, A-B has this week described the group's claims about mixing alcohol with caffeine as "truly alarmist" adding that "ironically, it has threatened to sue only the two well-known makers of lower-alcohol malt-based alternatives, while wholly ignoring the scores of caffeinated distilled spirits on the market that have a much higher alcohol content than the 6% or 8% found in our products. This calls into question the true priorities of CSPI, a group that obtains funding by generating publicity for itself."

CSPI's alcohol policies project director George Hacker said: "This is just the latest and one of the more sinister attempts by alcohol producers to prey on a new generation of future problem drinkers. This is an industry that wants its consumers young and it wants them hooked. And alcospeed contains two addictive ingredients in one sunny container, and several other stimulants that are not even approved for use."

A-B vice president Francine Katz responded by pointing out that "caffeinated alcohol beverages are nothing new. Responsible adults drink cocktails like rum and Coke, Irish coffee, and Red Bull and vodka…not to mention the everyday practise of many adults who may have wine with dinner and coffee with dessert. The bottom line is these products are sold in stores where customers must provide proof of age in order to purchase alcohol, and it is perfectly legal for a seller to make its product attractive to adults who can buy them." 

Last month, A-B and Miller were hit with subpoenas from attorneys general in the US over their sales and marketing of their caffeinated alcoholic drinks brands. A-B said at the time that it is cooperating with the subpoenas, noting that the formation and labeling for its Tilt and Bud Extra brands had already been approved by federal authorities prior to the subpoena being issued.

However, Katz added: "If these activists believe that caffeinated alcohol beverages should not be sold, they should persuade the relevant regulatory authorities to outlaw them entirely.  But so long as the beverage category itself is lawful, A-B may properly compete within it.  We will vigorously defend our legal right to do so, especially when improperly singled out by CSPI as a publicity-generating tactic."

CSPI's letters to A-B and Miller urge the companies to negotiate a settlement without resorting to litigation, giving the companies 30 days to make a decision.