Skip to main content

Anheuser-Busch accused of watering down several brands

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 6:18 PM EST, Thu February 28, 2013
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
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT