A load of Red Bull
Is it time to clip the wings of clubbers' favourite mixer?
Red Bull – the energy drink that ‘gives you wings’ and goes well with vodka – made the headlines in July 2001 when the Swedish National Food Administration (SNFA) issued a public warning about its safety after the deaths of three people who had drunk it.
The SNFA advised people to stop mixing Red Bull with alcohol and to stop drinking it after working out at the gym, until an investigation into the drink had been carried out. The warning might have come from Sweden, but it sent ripples around the world. In the UK, newspaper headlines warned of ‘Red Bull peril’ and appealed to clubbers to think before they drink.
Then dieticians entered the fray, with Dr Wendy Doyle, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, welcoming the Swedish inquiry into the drink and raising concerns about the potential dehydrating effects of mixing Red Bull with vodka. But even she conceded that, in moderation, the drink probably does no harm.
So what is going on? Is Red Bull the latest club danger? Have its ‘wings’ finally been clipped – or is it okay for clubbers to keep on mixing?
In reality, the three people who died in Sweden might have done so after drinking Red Bull – but there was no proof that Red Bull had been the cause of their deaths, or even that it had an effect at all. Two of the people died after mixing Red Bull with lots of vodka while out with friends – and the third person died after drinking Red Bull after a strenuous gym workout.
The Red Bull scare was based entirely on speculation. Even the Swedish National Food Administration that kickstarted the scare by launching the inquiry admitted that it just had a hunch that Red Bull might in some way be harmful. ‘The public warning is a precaution’, said its toxicology expert Anders Glynn. ‘At this point, it’s just a suspicion and we really don’t know why, as it is a suspicion reported to the press.’ (1)
No wonder a Red Bull spokeswoman denounced the scare as ‘one story that’s not been based on facts, and has been fuelled by speculation’ (2).
Red Bull has been on the market for 14 years – one billion cans were consumed worldwide in 2000, and 260 million cans were sold in Britain alone. And according to dieticians, drinking a can of Red Bull is about as dangerous as drinking a strong cup of coffee. If it really was deadly, wouldn’t we have found out by now?
Orange juice is another great mixer for vodka. I wonder how long until there’s a scare about that?
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