France is skeptical about the Red Bull energy drink being ‘safe’ to drink.

Prior to finally allowing its sale in April of 2008, French officials demanded that Red Bull remove the taurine ingredient and replace it with arginine. However since that time, the full honest-to-goodness version of Red Bull, jam-packed with taurine has been permitted for sale in France.

A European Union rule states that a product allowed in other EU countries may not be banned without specific scientific proof. The French relented for, but they aren’t letting up without basically saying, “I don’t like you, Red Bull, and I’ve got my French eye on you.”

However, according to a Food Industry News report, that’s still not enough to quell the French fears:

France’s food safety agency AFSSA did not authorise the sale of Red Bull’s products due to the lack of knowledge regarding the long term effects of taurine on the human body. However, France had to accept the product’s entry as no scientific evidence on its “noxious effects” could be brought forward by the competent authorities.

On Wednesday, France’s health minister Roselyne Bachelot informed the media that France is monitoring Red Bull beverages very closely and as soon as solid proof is provided, the state will ban sales of the energy drink.

Surely the Austrian energy drink company was not making friends with French officials when they launched their big ‘April Fool’s Day’ release of the former toned-down French Red Bull.

To celebrate the day, dozens of attractive women drove Red Bull painted Mini Coopers around the Arc de Triomphe. They drove in circles, causing tons of traffic and after 30 minutes forced the police to put an end to their ‘parade’.

I find myself wondering if the French are just a bunch of worried ninnies or if they really are on to something here.

Back in 2001, there was concern that drinking Red Bull and other products with high concentrated amounts of taurine could have caused the death of 3 people. The drink was cleared of ‘the crime’, but traces of suspicion, warranted or merely just urban legend remain. A Red Bull spokesman even said publicly he would not recommend drinking more than 1 or 2 at a time.

For many, Red Bull is a drink of choice for alcoholic mixers. Douches at the Jersey Shore love the Jagermesiter/Red Bull mix. However, combining the two beverages is believed to be a dangerous mix. In spite of this somewhat marginal, but still very serious bad publicity, Red Bull is an impressively marketed brand.

They lead the energy drink market and have a target brand approach that spans many platforms. Between sponsoring professional sports teams like Red Bull NY in the MLS and events like Flugtag and the Air Race in San Diego. They also do a fair share of sponsorships on the Extreme sports circuit.

In conclusion, if your brand is cool as hell and people equate it with partying and getting drunk a couple of French doctors are not going to rain on your parade. Party on, Garth.

FlexNews: Food Industry News – France Red Bull, June 14, 2008

International Herald Tribune: Red Bull Storms Into France, June 9, 2008