Warning after local tests find cocaine in drink

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am

Importers and retailers were urged yesterday to stop taking the caffeinated energy drink Red Bull after the government found it contained traces of cocaine.

The Government Laboratory confirmed that samples of Red Bull Cola, Red Bull Sugar-free and Red Bull Energy Drink contained 0.1 to 0.3 micrograms of cocaine per litre.

Commissioner for Narcotics Sally Wong Pik-yee said the commission was seeking legal advice on the possible liability of various parties.

She said importers and other retailers might wish to stop selling such products as a precaution.

But the Department of Health and Centre for Food Safety said such extremely low levels of cocaine were unlikely to cause psychotropic or adverse health effects.

The ParknShop and Wellcome supermarket chains have stopped selling Red Bull products since Sunday after trace amounts of cocaine were found in Red Bull Cola by health authorities in Austria, Germany and Taiwan last week.

William Chui Chun-ming, education director of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, said the levels of cocaine were small but elderly people with heart problems and high blood pressure should avoid the drinks as one can was enough to raise the heartbeat. Pregnant women should also avoid the drinks.

'A normal adult would have to drink 60,000 litres at a time in order to get poisoned [by cocaine],' Mr Chui said. 'This is quite impossible ... but the point is not the toxic effects but the fact that products containing the drug were being sold.'

Pharmaceutical Society president Benjamin Kwong Yiu-sum said cocaine could come from impurities in herbal raw material and the drink maker should conduct a review.