Skip to main content

Anheuser-Busch accused of watering down several brands

By Michael Martinez, CNN
February 28, 2013 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Two media outlets' lab tests find alcohol content of beer samples is as advertised
  • Two California residents accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down beer
  • Beer maker says claims are "completely false" and "groundless"
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV is world's largest producer of malt beverages, suit says

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Two California residents are suing Anheuser-Busch, alleging the company waters down Budweiser and other beers "significantly" to boost profits, their attorneys announced Tuesday.

The class-action lawsuit alleges that the maker of the "King of Beers" has the technology to precisely control the amount of alcohol in its beers but adds water so the alcohol is well below the advertised figure of 5% by volume, the suit said.

"There are no impediments -- economic, practical or legal -- to AB accurately labeling its products to reflect their true alcohol content," the 18-page lawsuit said. "Nevertheless, AB uniformly misrepresents and overstates that content."

The beer maker rejected the lawsuit's allegations.

Makers of Budweiser sued over beer
Meet the Budweiser Clydesdale foal

"The claims against Anheuser-Busch are completely false, and these lawsuits are groundless," said Peter Kraemer, vice president of brewing and supply for Anheuser-Busch. "Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling 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," he said.

The lawsuit alleges the other watered-down beers are Bud Ice, Bud Lite Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

But the suit doesn't provide figures for the allegedly watered-down alcohol content.

Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert, who reside in Sonoma County, California, are the plaintiffs who say they stopped buying Budweiser after learning of the alleged mislabeling, the suit said.

Their suit, filed last week in federal court in San Francisco, alleges violations of California's consumer protection laws and Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act.

"I think it's wrong for huge corporations to lie to their loyal customers -- I really feel cheated," Giampaoli said in a statement. "No matter what the product is, people should be able to rely on the information companies put on their labels."

The company's parent, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, is the world's largest producer of alcoholic beverages and made more than 10 billion gallons of malt libations in 2011, generating gross profits of more than $22 billion, the lawsuit said.

The parent company's 13 U.S. breweries alone produced more than 3 billion gallons of alcoholic beverages in 2011, and Anheuser Busch has a 47.7% market share of the U.S. sale of beer, the suit said.

"Because water is cheaper than alcohol, AB adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages that consistently have lower alcohol content than the percentage displayed on its labels," the suit said. "By doing so, AB is able to produce a significantly higher number of units of beer from the same starting batch of ingredients.

"AB never intends for the malt beverage to possess the amount of alcohol that is stated on the label. As a result, AB's customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell," the suit said.

The lawsuit, which says the matter in controversy exceeds $5 million, seeks unspecified amounts for compensatory and exemplary damages and asks the court to require the beer makers "to fund a corrective advertising campaign," the suit said.

In the aftermath of the lawsuit's announcement, National Public Radio and CNN affiliate KSDK conducted independent lab tests this week on samples of some Anheuser-Busch InBev beers and found their alcohol content matched the amount stated on the label.

Anheuser Busch gets more time to rework Grupo Modelo deal

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes: Evil is the strongest word we have to prepare ourselves to kill others.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
As protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teen calmed down, the question remains: Where's the police officer who pulled the trigger?
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
CNN's Tim Lister: Getting rid of ISIS will be tougher than taking on al Qaeda.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
American patients infected with Ebola are being released from the hospital. What now?
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1048 GMT (1848 HKT)
One of the first observers at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine describes the harrowing scene.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid gestures during the UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 Cardiff, Wales.
"We are like one grain of sand against a whole beach," says Eibar fan Unai Eraso.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
From fierce protests in Ferguson, to an Ebola survivor discharged from a hospital in Atlanta, browse through the photos of the week.
ADVERTISEMENT