The consumer ministries in the two states confirmed on Friday they had ordered retailers to pull the drink off their shelves after a food safety institute in North-Rhine Westphalia found cocaine in samples of the beverage.
“The institute examined Red Bull Cola in an elaborate chemical process and found traces of cocaine,” Bernhard Kühnle, head of the food safety department at the federal ministry for consumer protection said.
Authorities said the cocaine levels do not pose a health threat but are not permitted in foodstuffs.
The Frankfurter Neuen Presse reported that the investigation was prompted by the use of a de-cocainized extract of coca leaf in the drink. That means the drink cannot be classified as a foodstuff but as a narcotic and needs a special license, authorities said.
The newspaper reported that German retail group Rewe had already issued orders to remove the fizzy drink from its shops. Wilhelm Deitermann, spokesman for the North-Rhine Westphalia consumer ministry said he expected other German states to follow suit and ban the drink.
But Red Bull Cola has protested the action. “De-cocainized extract of coca leaf is used worldwide in foods as a natural flavouring,” the paper quoted the company saying. The company added that Red Bull Cola as well as other food that contains coca leaf extract is considered safe in the EU as well as in the US.
The more popular Red Bull, dubbed the “clubbers’ drink,” is often mixed with vodka. It contains caffeine, vitamins, and sugar which, the company claims, kick-starts the body’s metabolism and keeps people alert.