Red bull gives you wings: patrolling the boundaries of drug foods

Document Type


Publication details

Reynolds, R (2011), 'Red bull gives you wings: patrolling the boundaries of drug foods', Federal Law Review, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 281-302.

Peer Reviewed



In this article I examine the regulation of Red Bull by Food Standards Australia New Zealand ('FSANZ') and argue that, whilst FSANZ's regulatory approach does indeed favour traditional foods over novel foods, naturally occurring substances over food additives, and nutritious foods over non-nutritious foods FSANZ still makes room for all of these food products within a 'total diet' - so long as they are not confused. I call this the total diet approach to food regulation and it encompasses three aspects. The total diet is the sum of its disparate parts and includes both 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' foods; each food category has a different role to play in the total diet, and it is the role of the food regulator to ensure that these food categories are not confused. Within this regulatory framework food labelling plays a significant role. Rather than simply representing a return to neo-liberal ideals of consumer choice, food labelling is the primary tool through which the food regulator patrols the boundaries between food categories and manages consumer perception of food products. When using this tool the food regulator is as likely to limit consumer information as it is to promote it.

Such a regulatory approach is contentious for it rejects both the ideal of a 'healthy' diet and the ideal of an open market in food commodities. The divisiveness of the issue is evidenced by the fact that, as this article goes to print, the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has announced that it will conduct a full review of the standard developed by FZANZ in response to the emergence of Red Bull and other caffeinated energy drinks.

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