HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Attorneys general are asking federal regulators to crack down on the makers of energy drinks containing alcohol and caffeine, accusing them of misleading advertising for a product that can pose serious health and safety risks.
In a recent letter to John Manfreda, the administrator of the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, attorneys general from 28 states, Guam and the District of Columbia warn that aggressive marketing of alcoholic energy drinks targets young people who are buying energy drinks without alcohol.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday that beverage companies are making outlandish and outrageous health-related claims about the drinks.
"Combining alcohol with caffeine hardly seems healthy - and that false claim is what we seek to halt," Blumenthal said.
"Nonalcoholic energy drinks are very popular with today's youth," Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said. "Beverage companies are unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with claims about the stimulating properties of alcoholic energy drinks."
The attorneys general singled out three manufacturers: SABMiller PLC's Miller Brewing Co. for Sparks and Sparks Plus; Anheuser-Busch Cos. for Bud Extra; and Charge Beverages for its Liquid Charge and Liquid Core drinks.
Blumenthal said some ads contain misleading health-related claims regarding the products' effects.
For example, he said Sparks and Sparks Plus advertises canned drinks and the cases in which they are packaged to look like batteries to imply they are energy drinks. The slogan is "Powered by Sparks," he said.
Julian Green, a spokesman for Miller Brewing, said Sparks was created only for customers who are of legal drinking age.
"There is no non-alcoholic version of Sparks. We work closely with the Trade and Tax Bureau to ensure that all of our products meet federal regulatory requirements," he said.
Liquid Charge's Web site displays a video of a nuclear power plant's cooling tower collapsing and being replaced by a can of Liquid Charge. The ad calls the drink a "new power source for the 21st century" the ad says.
Calls were placed to Charge Beverages, based in Portland, Ore., for comment.
Anheuser-Busch vice president Francine Katz said the federal government approved the Bud Extra labeling.
"This product is simply a malt beverage that contains caffeine, and is clearly marked as containing alcohol," she said.
The attorneys general also requested a federal investigation into the makeup of alcoholic energy drinks and other flavored malt beverages to determine whether, based on the percentage of distilled spirits contained in the drinks, they are properly classified as malt beverages under federal law. The malt beverage classification, in many states, enables cheaper and broader sale of these drinks, making them more readily available to young people than distilled spirits.
Besides Oregon and Connecticut, states involved in the action are Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.