With reporting from Heba Fahmy
Updated at 11.15am with Red Bull comment on stocks.
The popular energy drink Red Bull has been missing from store shelves in Qatar over the past few weeks because it is working to put new labels on the cans to conform to recent government regulations, the company has said.
For the past several days, rumors have been swirling on social media about the reason for the drink’s apparent sudden absence.
On Twitter, Red Bull Qatar has responded to questions for more information with a message referring to the drink’s slogan:
— Red Bull Qatar (@RedBullQatar) September 13, 2015
In a statement to Doha News however, the company elaborated that the lack of stock was due to new regulations in Qatar that govern the packaging and labeling of all energy drinks, which came into effect from Sept. 1.
While it did not give any further details on the changes it has been required to make, Red Bull said this had impacted shipments into the country.
Red Bull said it hopes that new stocks will be back on Qatar store shelves in less than a month.
In response to queries about the safety of the drink, the company added:
“Red Bull Energy Drink is available in more than 165 countries because health authorities across the world have concluded that Red Bull Energy Drink is safe to consume. More than 5.6 billion cans were consumed last year and about 50 billion cans since Red Bull was created more than 25 years ago.”
The drink contains sugar, caffeine and taurine – an amino acid which also features in a number of different brands of energy drinks.
While the addition of the substance has been controversial, an online statement by Red Bull said the average can contains 1g of taurine, while a 70kg person has around 70g of it naturally in their body.
The SCH was unavailable for comment and has not publicly given specific details on what the new requirements for labeling of energy drinks are.
Previously, the packaging of the drinks included an advisory of the high caffeine content (in Red Bull’s case, 32mg/100ml), adding: “not allowed for pregnant and nursing women, persons under the age of 16, persons sensitive to caffeine, cardiovascular patients and during heavy sports exercises. Not recommended to consume more than two cans per day.”
This warning was printed on the main Red Bull can packaging in Arabic and English, underneath the list of ingredients, as was the case with most other brands.
However, the design of the Power Horse energy drink, which is a silver can, now displays the warning message more prominently in a large white square and in larger, red font than the main ingredients.
However, other brands of energy drinks could still be observed on store shelves in Qatar without prominent advisory messages.
Managers at supermarkets including Family Food Center, Megamart and Monoprix told Doha News they were unaware of the apparent new requirements to the packaging, stating that they had been told by Red Bull Qatar only that the drink was currently out of stock.
They said they did not know when they would get new stocks.
Other Gulf states also appear to be taking a tough line on the advertising of energy drinks and the locations in which they can be stocked.
Last spring, Saudi Arabia banned the sale of all energy drinks at all government, educational and public and private sports clubs and gyms, banned their advertising and introduced a requirement that they carry labels warning of the health side effects in both English and Arabic, Arabian Business reported.
This followed regulations introduced in the UAE in late 2011, which concerned the registration of energy drinks in the state and made it mandatory that they carry a warning using the wording, law firm Al Tamimi & Co reported online:
“This product is not permitted for pregnant women, or women breast feeding, children under 16 years of age, persons susceptible to allergy by caffeine, or persons suffering from heart disease or athletes during sport practice.”
In May, Qatar hosted a GCC wide meeting on food safety, in which proposals to ban or restrict the use of energy drinks in the members states was discussed, the SCH said in a statement.
Qatar’s health minister Abdullah bin Khalid Al Qahtani said at the time:
“We are working on finalizing a unified system to protect GCC markets from unsafe food. This system will be the first defense line to protect the health of GCC citizens,” the Peninsula reported.