PARIS Energy drink Red Bull appeared in its original recipe in France's shops for the first time on Tuesday, implementing European regulations that say it should be put on sale in the absence of proof that it is harmful.
The drink had been banned in France for twelve years due to health authorities' concerns about unknown consequences of the ingredient taurine, a chemical forbidden in several countries.
Until now a modified version of the drink, containing caffeine but not taurine, was on sale in France.
The French government was forced to legalize the drink because European Union regulations state that a product made or sold in other EU countries cannot be banned unless a health risk is proven, France's food safety agency said on their website.
The health authority nonetheless remained skeptical about Red Bull's safety, given the high levels of taurine and caffeine, suspected of causing "neurophysiological problems".
"The agency considered that the safety of use was not guaranteed. In addition, the nutritional value could not be demonstrated," the agency said, summarizing several of its analyses carried out on the drink since 2001.
It added that it suspected the drink lessens the impression but not the effects of drunkenness when consumed with alcohol.
France's health minister Roselyne Bachelot, who had in June expressed "serious reservations" about Red Bull, has asked that the drink be kept under surveillance, and that the public be informed of the possible undesirable effects of the drink.
Austria-based Red Bull agreed that health warnings indicating the drink's high caffeine content, recommending moderate consumption, and advising against consumption by pregnant women and children, would feature on cans.
One feature of the cans that went on sale on Tuesday was a logo advertising the product's unique selling point: "taurine formula".
(Reporting by Joseph Tandy; editing by Francois Murphy)