Cocaine found in Red Bull Cola?

Six German states have banned Red Bull Cola after lab tests turned up trace amounts of coca leaf extracts in the beverage. According to authorities, the substance requires the beverage to be classified as a narcotic, requiring a license for sale. (Of course, even Coca-Cola didn't become entirely cocaine-free until 1929.) From BBC News:
(Red Bull) said coca leaf extracts were used worldwide as a natural flavouring, and that its own tests had found no traces of cocaine.

The illegal cocaine alkaloid - one of 10 found in coca and representing only 0.8% of the plant's chemical make-up - is chemically removed before use, as mandated by international anti-narcotics agencies.

"There is no scientific basis for this ban on Red Bull Cola because the levels of cocaine found are so small," Fritz Soergel, the head of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg, Bavaria, told Time magazine.

"And it's not even cocaine itself. According to the tests we carried out, it's a non-active 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."
"Germany bans cola after drug test"


  1. This is tragic. I drink two per day and I might die without it. Now they could take it off the shelves. Even if it stays, how can I show my face on the street, pushing the tricycle with one hand, a nice cold can of fizzy lifting drink in the other… Tut, tut, now everyone I pass on the street will be like, “Ooooooh, that mom drinks redbull. I heard it has COCAINE!” Next thing you know, I’ll be reported. Pesco, why are you busting my balls??

  2. It’s Red Bull COLA, people. COLA.
    This bit of information seems to be sailing over people’s heads everywhere this story pops up.

    And the article makes it pretty clear that there is not cocaine in it, but I guess the headline wouldn’t be as catchy and urban legend spawning without your question mark.
    Could boingboing try a little harder when it comes to shitty media reporting on science issues please?

  3. There’s some ambiguity in the original post here: this is Red Bull Cola, not the original Red Bull energy drink.

  4. Just what I was thinking, Nosehat- I’ll bet the cans are flying off the shelves!
    A RedBull official is quoted as saying “Oops!”

    Wolfie’s mom has balls?! Maybe there’s something worse than cocaine in the RedBull, huh?

  5. Yes Aldasin, it’s Red Bull Cola, not Red Bull.

    I’ve tried it, it tastes like crap.

    But this does highlight the problem with any law that requires “zero” of anything.

    4 micrograms per liter is nothing.

  6. Just because we have the power to detect something at incredibly dilute concentrations doesn’t make it dangerous.

  7. Hey! You got your cocaine in my Red Bull!

    You got your Red Bull in my cocaine!


  8. It is a relief they’re referring to the redbull cola, which is pretty atrocious. My fruity, pink, fizzy wonder drink is a miracle of science, though, so, please just let it be!

  9. I’m frankly surprised at the voracity of the red bull cola haterz. I buy that stuff by the case.. tastes waaaaay better than any other cola on the market.. the only better cola is AfriCola which I have, alas, never seen in the US. The difference is the delicious, delicious real sugar instead of corn syrup.. and Red Bull cola has all kinds of crazy herbs in it (for example, galangal/blue ginger). Really, I’m surprised at the lack of taste around here sometimes.

  10. Sad. That there isn’t MORE cocaine in it. Think of the boost in productivity! This could’ve gotten us out of the recession!

  11. so if coca leaves are used in red bull cola flavoring, then cocaine tastes like the inside of a ladies’ public restroom trash can?

    1. Are there really people who don’t know what cocaine tastes like? It’s nasty.

  12. Diet redbull does taste a bit like a ladies restroom, assuming the restroom was coated heavily with air freshening agents.

  13. I really dislike headlines that end with a question mark. “Cocaine found in Red Bull Cola?” “Is Obama a secret Buddhist?” “Is the air around Dick Cheney always 4 degrees colder than the ambient temperature?”

  14. Are there really people who don’t know what cocaine tastes like? It’s nasty.

    All alkaloids taste bitter, AFAIK.

    (Unfortunately, tasting is no longer the common practice for chemists. …but that’s how saccharin was discovered as an artificial sweetener! …it got on his cigarette no less!)

    “4 micrograms per liter is nothing.” Unless you’re a homeopath.

    I’ll wager there’s more than 4 mics of cocaine per liter of tap water because Americans are such coke fiends, and most of it gets pissed into the water supply but not removed at the reclamation plant, so it’s pumped back for us to drink.

  15. Huh?

    No one’s mentioned the interesting little factoid that Coca Cola used to have cocaine in it early in the 20th century. This was by design, and the cocaine in coca-cola (no coincidence in the name, by the way) was considered a nice little pick-me-up.

  16. I worked with a Thai who imported Red Bull from Thailand, because “Swedish Red Bull is crap”. He got busted in urine tests a couple of times because of it. It contained both some kind of ephedrine derivate and opiates. He promised not too drink it a couple of times and had to get drug addiction treatment (in Sweden an employer can’t sack an employee for drug use, or being absent or dangerous because of it, without trying drug addiction treatment for decades).

    Apparently Red Bull is different in different countries.

    (At that same workplace a Canadian was busted for using a prescription free Canadian cold remedy. In Sweden you can’t even get it from doctors and drug dealers sell it as a party drug. She was rather chocked as she had used it since she was a kid and on her own kids.)

  17. #30: Keeper of the Lantern, May 26, 2009 11:56 PM

    No one’s mentioned the interesting little factoid that Coca Cola used to have cocaine in it early in the 20th century.

    Apart from that bit in the article that said “Coca-Cola didn’t become entirely cocaine-free until 1929.”

    No one’s mentioned the fact that “factoid” used to mean “a statement formed and asserted as a fact, but with no veracity”, until the 1980s.

  18. We should now drink Red Bull Cola as much as possible to get the most out of it. You should do it now while it’s still available. Information is not clear but you should drink at least tens of thousands of portions to get any effect.

    The information was brought to you by German scientists, even though there isn’t real danger at all, they say, but the issue remains unresolved and unconfirmed.

    So, you should try it out yourself and do your own research on this new controversial and interesting product, while confirming that refreshing energy from the Andes.

    Straight from Edward Bernays et al.

  19. Anon32, I’m gonna have to suggest that your sacked coworker was probably doing drugs in addition to the Red Bull.

  20. I guess they better take Spain off the market too since they found the air there contains 850 picograms per cubic meter. That sure sounds like a lot ;).

    “Higher concentration over weekends –
    The group said the study showed higher concentrations of the components on weekends, suggesting that drug consumption was up in these periods.”

    DUH :)

  21. The paranoid’s question is of course: “How long before this testing did the coca cola company notice that Red Bull Cola sales were on the climb.”

  22. (At that same workplace a Canadian was busted for using a prescription free Canadian cold remedy. In Sweden you can’t even get it from doctors and drug dealers sell it as a party drug. She was rather chocked as she had used it since she was a kid and on her own kids.)

    Are you thinking of DXM (Robatussin)?

    Or perhaps Benadryl (diphenhydramine)? but that’s for allergies or use as a mild sleeping pill. But I think I recall that it’s essentially impossible to get in the UK for unknown reasons, while it’s OTC in the USA and Canada (and very common).

  23. so, should the rb cola be snorted for maximum effect? freebasing will be difficult. sic

  24. I bet you could test positive on a drug screen from the red bull cola if you drank about 2-3 cans a day. If 1 can contains 130ng and the cutoff is 300ng on an essay and 150ng for confirmation test. Thats if the by product is benzoylecgonine.

  25. ^yeah the assay..

    Those cutoff numbers are really for tests that use antibodies. If this was screened under mass spec, it wouldnt matter what the metabolite is. we’d know what and how much..

  26. I wonder if anyone has tested positive. I think it’s pretty possible, considering everyone already has a small amount from external contamination(money,ATM’s,. etc.)

  27. what a ridiculously small amount.. coca cola does the same thing with coca leaves! I wouldn’t be surprised if there were infinitesimal traces in there too. if you want actual cocaine in your beverages, you can easily get it naturally and safely from south america.. just look for inca tea. Coca tea is common in Peru for altitude sickness, digestive problems, and as a very nice pick me up. There’s also coca wine, liquor, candies and other coca leaf food you can buy. Cocaine is only one of the many alkaloids found in the leaf. Try compras peru.. they’re great, and very nice. Just don’t drink too much, and don’t try getting too creative with releasing the alkaloids, because then some of the detriments of the processed stuff unfortunately start to happen. Depending how you make it, you can end up with something reminiscent of green tea with stimulation on par with strong tea OR a sludgy coca powder paste beverage which tastes terrible but really really naturally makes you feel very very excited. Then you become obsessed with Incan culture and that happy flute music they play makes total sense!

  28. not enough cocaine to even notice, not even if you condensed 100 cans and drank them simultaneously.

    Though it gives me an idea. Why not dissolve 1/4 gram in a can of Red Bull. I probably wont, because it is a waste of 1/4 gram and more importantly the substance that it is cut with may be insoluble. It is an interesting thought though.

  29. Little confused here, there IS Red Bull and Red Bull Cola (which is not directly manufactured by Red Bull) When I google Red Bull COLA it leads me to Red Bull, however Red Bull COLA is still a different entity. So, does that mean Red Bull itself is still “safe” to drink? Confusing….

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