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December 18, 2008

MADIGAN: MILLERCOORS TO STOP BREWING ALCOHOLIC ENERGY DRINKS

Attorney General Calls on Other Manufacturers to Cease "Alcopop" Production and Sales

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced an agreement with MillerCoors to discontinue selling Sparks, the country's top-selling pre-mixed caffeinated alcohol beverage, as the result of an investigation into whether MillerCoors made false or misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Sparks. The company agreed to cease production of all caffeinated alcohol beverages, known as "alcopops."

"These drinks are potentially unsafe because they mask the true effects of alcohol with large amounts of caffeine," Madigan said. "I am pleased that MillerCoors is pulling these drinks from the market, and I urge other manufacturers to pull caffeinated alcohol beverages from store shelves."

The settlement also addresses concerns about the marketing of Sparks. As part of the agreement, MillerCoors agrees to stop using images that imply power, like the identifying "plus" and "minus" symbols on its can that resemble those on batteries. MillerCoors will also cease marketing campaigns that appeal to underage youth, like its sponsorship of professional air guitarist William Ocean, who does a back flip onto an opened can of Sparks in his performances.

"These drinks are extremely dangerous in the hands of young people," Madigan said. "They contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed as a way to "power" your nights - by staying awake and drinking more alcohol. This is a completely inappropriate message to send to younger audiences."

MillerCoors denied all allegations but cooperated with the investigation and will reformulate Sparks without caffeine or other stimulants. MillerCoors will cease production of all caffeinated alcohol beverages and will not produce any in the future.

Madigan's office participated in the investigation, which was led by Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe, the outgoing Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee. The Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma, and the City Attorney of San Francisco also participated in the settlement.

Madigan's negotiations with MillerCoors are only her latest steps to protect young people from the marketing of harmful products. In September, Madigan, along with 24 other Attorneys General, called on MillerCoors to abandon its plan to introduce a new caffeinated alcohol beverage that would have contained significantly elevated alcohol content. MillerCoors agreed to cancel its release of the product.

In June, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. (A-B), following negotiations with Madigan and 10 other states, agreed to withdraw from the alcohol energy drink market and reformulate Tilt and Bud Extra without caffeine or other stimulants.

In August 2007, Madigan joined a letter urging the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the federal agency responsible for monitoring marketing of alcohol, to increase its efforts to prevent misleading claims by alcoholic energy drinks. Similarly, in May 2007, Madigan joined other attorneys general in urging A-B to adjust its advertising of another alcoholic energy drink, called Spykes. In response, A-B pulled Spykes from stores.

Madigan has also taken action to protect young people from the advertisement of non-alcoholic energy drinks as illicit drugs. In May, the Attorney General demanded a Las Vegas company named Kingpin Concepts, Inc. to discontinue its cocaine-themed marketing and sale of Blow, an energy drink mix that glorifies drug culture and has raised serious health concerns due to its high caffeine content. Kingpin has agreed to cease sales of the product in Illinois. In May 2007, Madigan reached a similar agreement with the California-based Redux Beverages, LLC, for its distribution of an energy drink named Cocaine.

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