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PHILADELPHIA -- Multiple class-action lawsuits have accused Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B) of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands of beers, and are seeking millions in damages, according to the Associated Press. The lawsuits claim that the brewer cheated customers out of the alcohol content labeled on its products.
The 10 A-B products named in the lawsuit are Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.
"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," stated lead lawyer Josh Boxer. "It's a simple cost-saving measure, and it's very significant."
These former employees worked at A-B's 13 U.S. breweries, including some high-level plant positions, according to Boxer, who filed suit in federal court in San Francisco on Feb. 22 on behalf of consumers in the lower 48 states. The lawsuit claims that excess water is added just prior to bottling and reduces the labeled alcohol content by 3 to 8 percent.
A-B denied the claims, labeling the lawsuit "groundless."
"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.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged watering-down practices began after St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch merged with Belgium-based InBev in 2008. "Following the merger, A-B vigorously accelerated the deceptive practices described, sacrificing the quality products once produced by Anheuser-Busch in order to reduce costs," said the lawsuit, which also claims A-B's equipment is capable of measuring alcohol content throughout the brewing process to an accuracy of within one-hundredth of 1 percent.
Companion lawsuits asking for at least $5 million in damages will be filed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and elsewhere this week. Thomas and Gerald Greenberg of Ambler, Pa., were named as plaintiffs and said that they buy six cases of affected A-B products per month.
Boxer told the AP that he has corroborating evidence to accompany the former employees' claims, but did not state that the beers have been independently tested.