Drinkers claim beer is watered down: launch legal action


A number of beer drinkers in the US have filed legal cases against Anheuser Busch - claiming that the firm has been watering down their favourite beers. The cases name ten brands of beer - including Budweiser.

So what are they suing for, and why does the idea of watering down alcohol worry us so much?

The cases

Lawsuits have been filed in three states. According to the BBC, the drinkers claim that the alcohol content stated on labels is not true. The drinkers contend that the company started watering down the beer after Anheuser Busch merged with InBev in 2008.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the lead lawyer, Josh Boxer, said that information had come from former employees, who had made the original claim that the beers were being watered down. The newspaper said that the plaintiffs did not independently test the alcohol content in the beers.

The brewer has responded. The BBC reports that Anheuser-Busch InBev called the claims "completely false". Peter Kraemer, vice president of brewing and supply, said in a statement: "Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labelling laws. We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world."

The case will hinge on whether the alcohol content on the label accurately reflects the alcohol content in the beer. We will have to wait for the outcome of the case to discover whether it does.

Watering down

However, it goes to show how emotive the idea of watered down liquor is.

Earlier this month Maker's Mark announced plans to lower the alcohol content in its bourbon from 45% alcohol to 42%. It cited the rising demand for bourbon and falling supply, and said this was an alternative to putting up prices. However, the result was a dramatic backlash on social media, which persuaded the company to change its mind.

The company said in a Facebook post: "While we thought we were doing what's right, this is your brand - and you told us in large numbers to change our decision. You spoke. We listened."

This shows how strongly people feel about the alcohol level of their favourite drinks.

The irony is that drinks companies are quietly reducing the alcohol content in some of their products in the UK. According to The Drinks Business, AB InBev agreed to cut the abv in Stella Artois, Budweiser and Becks sold in the UK from 5% to 4.8% at the end of January last year.

The government is putting serious pressure on them to do this voluntarily, although Health Minister Anne Milton has made it clear that if this doesn't work, more direct measures would become a possibility.

It seems that although we may get upset at the thought of drinking watered down alcohol, some UK drinkers are accepting it without even realising it.
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