The less-than-buzz-worthy suit against Anheuser-Busch InBev
that I discussed in this
post
yesterday is becoming even less of a news story about Anheuser-Busch
and more a new story about some pretty slippery wording in a legal complaint.

I criticized the media for reporting on a complaint where
the language alleging a variance from the 5% advertised alcohol by volume
levels didn’t actually say what the variance was.  The complaint just said that AB “overstated”
the content and that the actual content was “well below” the advertised limit.  These words mean nothing and give no
information.

But that whole issue is changing and it’s coming to light
that there’s nothing out of the ordinary – except some claims made during
interviews.

Yesterday the Chicago
Tribune ran an article from LA Times reporter Stuart Pfeifer
, quoting the
attorneys in the suit saying that their information came from “former employees
at Anheuser-Busch” and that the water added just before bottling cuts the stated
alcohol content by 3% to 8%.  The
attorneys also admitted that the plaintiffs did not independently test the
alcohol content in the beers.

3% to 8%?  Even at the
low end of the claimed reduction level of 3%, that would make the 5% beer a 2%
product and well outside the 0.3% tolerance levels we discussed yesterday.  That 3% to 8% statement could come back to
haunt everyone here, especially since the statement is changing.

This morning, NPR, true to form, actually did some
investigation and clarification. (Full disclosure, I give money to support the
Chicago affiliate, WBEZ). 

Dan
Bobkoff and Bill Chappell have a story up on the NPR website
with two
incredibly revealing facts.  The first is
that an actual test of the beer showed that it was right on the mark:

Tests conducted on Budweiser, Bud Light Lime, and Michelob
Ultra this week by San Diego’s White Labs found that “the alcohol
percentages inside the cans were the same as what was stated on the can,”
says analytical laboratory specialist Kara Taylor.

“Some of them were spot-on. Others deviated, plus or
minus, within a hundredth of a percentage” — well within federal limits,
she says.

The second is that the plaintiffs didn’t give NPR the same
3% to 8% quote.  In the audio version of the
story, which you can listen to from the link to the story above, the quote is
that the attorneys told NPR that:

“If a Budweiser’s label says it contains 5% alcohol, it’s actually
more like 4.7%.”

That’s exactly within the 0.3% tolerance levels that the Federal
Regulations allow
.  And it is vastly
different than a claim of 3% to 8% that the media was reporting on yesterday.  A statement that is well off the mark from
what’s being said now, one that’s way more specific than what the complaint
alleged, and that might contain factual inaccuracies that have actually hurt AB
sales.

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