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AB InBev sued over claim Budweiser overstated alcohol level

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world’s biggest brewer, was sued by two consumers for allegedly overstating the alcohol content in its Budweiser beer.

AB InBev (NYSE: BUD) routinely adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages with significantly less alcohol content than displayed on its labels, Thomas and Gerald Greenberg said in a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Philadelphia. The company’s exaggeration of the alcohol content violates Pennsylvania’s consumer protection statutes, according to the complaint.

“AB’s customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell,” according to the filing.

The complaint accuses Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev of also mislabeling the amount of alcohol in Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Black Crown, Bud Light Lime, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, Natural Ice and Michelob Ultra.

No one was immediately available to comment on the lawsuit at the company’s offices in St. Louis, according to someone who answered the media relations line.

David Senoff, an attorney for the Greenbergs, didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking more information on the claims.

The men didn’t say in the complaint how they determined the alcohol content was less than stated.

The Greenbergs said they routinely purchased as many as four cases of Budweiser a month during the past four years, with the contents labeled as having an alcohol content of 5 percent by volume, according to the lawsuit.

AB InBev allegedly keeps the alcohol level for each batch of malt beverage at specifications above the desired final product at least initially then adds water and CO2 to the final stage of the brewing process, according to the complaint.

The company began using in-line alcohol measuring instruments known as Anton Paar meters that can measure the alcohol content in malt beverages to within hundredths of one percent, according to the complaint. AB allegedly uses the precision technology to shave the alcohol content instead providing consumers with a product based on the stated label, the Greenbergs said in the complaint.

“Even though AB knows the true alcohol content of its products, it intentionally and falsely overstates the alcohol content of its malt beverages,” according to the complaint.

The Greenbergs are seeking to represent all consumers who purchased the allegedly diluted products for personal use in the state of Pennsylvania in their bid for damages exceeding $5 million and a court order requiring the company to alter its advertising campaign.

The case is Greenberg v. Anheuser-Busch Cos LLC, 13-cv- 01016, U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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