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Group: MillerCoors hooking teens on ‘Sparks’

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Monday it sued MillerCoors Brewing Co. to stop the brewer from selling Sparks — the company's alcoholic energy drink.

Sparks has more alcohol than regular beer and contains unapproved additives, including stimulants caffeine and guarana, the private advocacy group said.

CSPI Litigation Director Steve Gardner, in a statement, said the company is trying to hook teenagers on a dangerous drink with its "reckless" and "predatory" behavior. Regarding the dangers, CSPI cited a 2007 study finding that drinkers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks are more likely to binge drink and ride with an intoxicated driver, among other dangers.

The lawsuit, which asks the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to stop MillerCoors from selling the drink, said it is illegal to use caffeine, guarana, ginseng and taurine in alcoholic beverages. CSPI said the Food and Drug Administration has given "only very narrow approval" for caffeine and guarana — with no allowance for alcoholic drinks — and no approval for ginseng in any food or beverage. Taurine is a derivative of an amino acid and often found in energy drinks.

In February, CSPI notified Anheuser-Busch and Miller that it planned to sue both companies over caffeinated alcoholic drinks. Anheuser-Busch has already said it will stop selling caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

The administrator of the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the attorneys general of 28 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam are looking at whether Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co. are misrepresenting the drinks' health benefits.

Miller has said previously that Sparks is marketed only to consumers of drinking age and plans to cooperate with investigators.

A representative for MillerCoors could not be immediately reached for comment.

MillerCoors is a joint venture between SABMiller's U.S. unit and Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co.