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Lawsuits accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down beer

By Maryclaire Dale

Associated Press


PHILADELPHIA >>  Beer lovers across the U.S. have accused Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands, in class-action suits seeking millions in damages.

The suits, filed in Pennsylvania, California and other states, claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each boast of being 5 percent alcohol, while some "light" versions are said to be just over 4 percent.

The lawsuits are based on information from former employees at the company's 13 U.S. breweries, some in high-level plant positions, according to lead lawyer Josh Boxer of San Rafael, Calif.

"Our information comes from former employees at Anheuser-Busch, who have informed us that as a matter of corporate practice, all of their products mentioned (in the lawsuit) are watered down," Boxer said. "It's a simple cost-saving measure, and it's very significant."

The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 percent to 8 percent, he said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev called the claims "groundless" and said its beers fully comply with labeling laws.

"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," Peter Kraemer, vice president of brewing and supply, said in a statement.

The suit involves 10 Anheuser-Busch products: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Mo., merged with InBev in 2008 to form the world's largest alcohol producer, headquartered in Belgium. In 2011, the company produced 10 billion gallons of malt beverages, 3 billion of them in the U.S., and reported $22 billion in profits from that category, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the company has sophisticated equipment that measures the alcohol content throughout the brewing process and is accurate to within one-hundredth of a percent. But after the merger, the company increasingly chose to dilute its popular brands of beer, the lawsuit alleged.

"Following the merger, AB vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices described below, sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs," said the lead lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of consumers in the lower 48 states.

Companion suits are being filed this week in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere. Each seeks at least $5 million in damages.

The named Pennsylvania plaintiffs, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Ambler, said they buy six cases of the affected Anheuser-Busch products a month. They did not immediately return a message Tuesday, and Boxer would not elaborate on their purchases except to say the consumer-protection suit does not involve retailers or bar owners.

One of the California plaintiffs, Nina Giampaoli of Sonoma County, said she bought a six-pack of Budweiser every week for the past four years.

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

Bloomberg News first reported Tuesday on the lawsuits.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Boxer said he has evidence to corroborate the former employees' allegations, but stopped short of saying the beers had been independently tested.

"AB (Anheuser-Busch) 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 lawsuit said.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
How can you tell if Bud Light is watered down?
on February 26,2013 | 12:34PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Bud Light has the same percentage of rat hairs as Bud or Michelob
on February 26,2013 | 02:05PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Except for Bud ICE which is cold filtered which removes the rat hairs but leaves the cat urine for special flavor.
on February 26,2013 | 02:08PM
loquaciousone wrote:
That was rat hairs? It was kind of curly and kinky so I thought it was something else.
on February 26,2013 | 02:32PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
maybe you got a "bad" batch?
on February 26,2013 | 02:47PM
CriticalReader wrote:
The lawyer should also look into the W&M Burger's Green River drink. Way watered down!
on February 26,2013 | 01:26PM
loquaciousone wrote:
NO COMMENT! burp ga gug allw awamm mammmmma ewww.
on February 26,2013 | 01:39PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
It's why I don't buy any Bud-branded beer anymore. You have to drink two or three times as much as before. And you already had to drink two or three times more than any other beer. I've moved on to whisky and my gut has never been happier.
on February 26,2013 | 02:43PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
You know, this story is going to REALLY P*ss Fred01 off. He thought he was getting a deal buying Bud on sale.
on February 26,2013 | 02:49PM
honopic wrote:
Anheuser-Busch hasnt' brewed a decent beer in decades, not since they started spending million$ on TV ads. Many clever ads, many lousy beers. It's no surprise that after the "merger" (i.e. BUYOUT) the beer would be even weaker. Maneki Neko is right on this one -- how can you tell if water is watered down?
on February 26,2013 | 03:05PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
hono - thats what you get for buying junk beer. Next time you go shopping for beer try something NOT made by the Twins Anheiser-Busch or Miller.
on February 26,2013 | 05:24PM
SteveToo wrote:
That's why I make my own beer.
on February 26,2013 | 03:52PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
Always wanted to try that. Saw some starter kits on the internet but wondered if I'd end up having something as bad as Bud.
on February 26,2013 | 05:27PM
my13cents wrote:
So, that's the reason I wasn't blacking out as often, after WALKING home from the bar.
on February 26,2013 | 04:54PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
yeah, that and probably the lower concentration of cat urine in your blood
on February 26,2013 | 07:00PM
opalaedo wrote:
All major U.S.-made beers are watered down.
on February 26,2013 | 08:24PM
808warriorfan wrote:
on February 26,2013 | 09:58PM
64hoo wrote:
when I drink beer I always put it over ice so I see nothing wrong with a little watered down beer. taste good.
on February 27,2013 | 12:12AM
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