AAFES sells Red Bull Cola despite ban in Germany

By MARK PATTON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 27, 2009

WIESBADEN, Germany — Army and Air Force Exchange Services will continue to stock its shelves with Red Bull Cola energy drinks even though several German states have banned the popular beverage.

The bans went into effect Friday after a test conducted by authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia found miniscule amounts of cocaine in the drink, according to The Associated Press.

"The [Health Institute in the state of North Rhine Westphalia] examined Red Bull Cola in an elaborate chemical process and found traces of cocaine," Bernhard Kuehnle, head of the food safety department at Germany’s federal ministry for consumer protection, told the German press on Sunday.

The states of Baden-Wurttemberg, Bayern, Hessen, Niedersachsen and Rheinland-Pfalz followed suit, fearing concerns over possible narcotics law violations, according to the AP.

Don’t expect to feel cocaine’s nerve-jittering effects from drinking Red Bull Cola, however, said Fritz Soergel, head of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in the city of Nuremberg during an interview with Time magazine. According to an analysis appearing on the magazine’s Web site, you’d have to drink almost 35,000 cans of the cola for effects to be noticed.

"There is no scientific basis for this ban on Red Bull Cola because the levels of cocaine found are so small," said Soergel. "And it’s not even cocaine itself. According to the tests we carried out, it’s a nonactive degradation product with no effect on the body. If you start examining lots of other drinks and food so carefully, you’d find a lot of surprising things."

As of now, AAFES has not been directed by any German authorities or the Department of Defense to remove Red Bull Cola from their shelves and many of their stores will continue to sell it, even in the states with the German retail ban.

"AAFES is closely monitoring the situation at this time. We are very concerned about consumer safety and are reviewing all reports on Red Bull Cola," said an AAFES spokesman.

Red Bull Cola lines the coolers at the Hainerberg Shopette in Wiesbaden, Germany. Despite Friday’s ban of the popular energy drink in six German states, Army and Air Force Exchange Services has not been directed by the state governments or Department of Defense to pull the product from their shelves.

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