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Alcoholic Energy Drinks Under Scrutiny

Some stores in Washington and Oregon have stopped selling certain alcoholic energy drinks, saying the blends may be unsafe.

Haggen Food & Pharmacy said Tuesday it was halting the sale of two brands of alcoholic energy drinks–Joose and Four Loko–from its 32 stores in Washington and Oregon.

Four Loko is the brand that Central Washington University officials said sickened nine of its students, who had been drinking at a party before being hospitalized earlier this month.

 The campus has since banned the drink. 

“The right thing to do for our communities is to immediately stop sales of Four Loko and Joose, regardless of if or when a government agency bans them,” said Becky Skaggs, a spokeswoman for the Bellingham-based Haggen.

The grocery chain’s move came after Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna questioned the safety of alcoholic energy drinks at a news conference Monday, citing the Central Washington University incident.

McKenna called the drinks a serious health risk and said he is asking the FDA to examine their safety.  Previously, McKenna endorsed proposed state legislation that would have ban the sale of alcoholic energy drinks in Washington. The bill died in the Senate Rules Committee.

McKenna had also asked the FDA to review the safety of alcoholic energy drinks. The agency has now given the manufacturers of the drinks 30 days to explain their reasoning for mixing alcohol with stimulants.

If the FDA does not act quickly, McKenna said he will attempt again to ban the sale of alcoholic energy drinks in the state of Washington.

Several of the Central Washington students had blood-alcohol levels that were nearly lethal, according to Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Up to nine people passed out at the party, according to the Cle Elum police department report on the incident.

The report said that, “(one girl) was very limp and…did not respond when people touched her and talked to her.”

She, along with others, were taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

Police officers who arrived at the scene initially thought someone had slipped a date rape drug into people’s drinks because a majority of those sickened were female, but investigators later found the alcoholic energy drink “Four Loko” was to blame.

“Putting the two combinations (alcohol and caffeine) together in a (23.5 ounce) can is the equivalent of drinking five to six cans of beer and two cups of coffee,” Smith said.

These drinks are especially dangerous because the stimulants in them make the drinker more alert, therefore giving them the illusion that they are not as drunk as they really are, Smith said.

 

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