Anheuser-Busch waters down its beers “well below” their advertised 5% volume in order to boost profits, according to four class action lawsuits filed this week. The allegedly watered-down beer is not only frustrating for consumers who are getting less alcohol per serving, but also constitutes false labeling, the complaints say.
The four potential class action lawsuits were filed in San Francisco, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The allegedly mislabeled beer includes Budweiser, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Natural Ice, and others.
San Francisco plaintiffs Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert allege in their class action lawsuit that Anheuser-Busch violated California’s consumer protection laws and Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act by “deliberately manipulating the brewing process and producing malt beverages knowing that their alcohol content is mislabeled.”
They say Anheuser-Busch has the technology to precisely control the amount of alcohol in its beers but adds water so that the alcohol content is “significantly” below the advertised figure of 5% by volume.
“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 class action lawsuit says. “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,” according to the class action lawsuit.
Giampaoli and Elbert are seeking over $5 million in damages and are asking the court to require the beer maker to fund a corrective advertising campaign.
UPDATE: This case was consolidated into multidistrict litigation in June 2013. A year later on June 2, 2014, the federal judge overseeing the Anheuser-Busch MDL dismissed the case, ruling the company is within the federally acceptable range of 0.3 percent wiggle room allowed for malt beverages containing 0.5 alcohol or more.
UPDATE 2: On Mar. 22, 2016, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a consolidated class action lawsuit that accused Anheuser-Busch of overstating the alcohol content of its beers.
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