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Red Bull's cocaine problem
Why traces of an illegal drug might do the makers of the popular energy drink no harm
 

Red Bull is suddenly flying off supermarket shelves, said Anne Willette in USA Today, and not in a good way. Authorities in Hong Kong have confiscated nearly 18,000 cases of the popular energy drink after tiny amounts of cocaine were found in cans of Red Bull Cola, Red Bull Sugar-free, and Red Bull Energy Drink. The traces of cocaine—0.1 to 0.3 micrograms per liter—weren't enough to hurt anybody, but the story has made quite a splash.

Which is precisely why it probably doesn't bother the makers of Red Bull at all, said Laurie Burkitt in Forbes. In May, health officials in Jordan and lawmakers in Germany banned Red Bull Simply Cola due to trace amounts of cocaine. Red Bull executives say they use only "de-cocainized coca leaf" to add flavor and that their drink is safe—but the rumors about the "hyper-caffeinated" drink's secret ingredient may enhance its mystique and boost sales.

There's certainly no reason to panic over such small amounts of cocaine, said Shelley Huang in the Taipei Times. Doctors say "people with low tolerance would have to drink 700,000 liters, or 2 million cans, in one sitting to die from an overdose."

 

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