Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the FDA and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, yesterday joined the chorus of lawmakers and public health officials calling for a serious look at alcoholic energy drinks, which have become extremely popular with young adults.
A recent slew of incidents involving Four Loko, a flavored, caffeinated malt liquor beverage widely known as “black-out in a can,” have raised questions about the safety of caffeinated alcoholic beverages.
“The medical evidence continues to mount that caffeinated alcoholic drinks, such as Four Loko, are dangerous–especially as they are specifically targeted to young people,” said DeLauro in a statement Monday. “For more than a year now the FDA has been examining the safety and legality of these beverages, while hospitalizations connected with Four Loko continue to rise.”
“Several states have already banned the product, while others are considering action, and cities and colleges across the country are concerned,” explained DeLauro. “It is the responsibility of the FDA to protect the American public, providing critical information and warnings about such potentially dangerous products.”
“I strongly urge FDA to consider banning Four Loko if the agency’s investigation confirms the link that consumption of these drinks results in serious health consequences and even death,” she said.
Michigan, Utah, and most recently, Washington have banned pre-mixed caffeinated alcohol drinks. Several universities have also barred the sale of the beverages.
As Food Safety News reported last week, about a year ago, the FDA told nearly 30 manufacturers of these types of drinks that they had 30 days to prove that combining alcohol and caffeine wasn’t dangerous or it would “take appropriate action to ensure that the products are removed from the marketplace.”
The FDA hasn’t issued any formal statement since, but Phusion Projects states on its website that the government “is looking into the safety of our product and 40 other products produced by 26 other companies. We’ve complied with the agency’s request and have submitted a “Generally Regarded as Safe” (GRAS) study, which affirmed that the addition of caffeine to alcohol is indeed safe.”
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages have been widely criticized as of late for masking the effects of intoxication. Critics say that kids don’t realize how drunk they are, which can enable greater alcohol consumption.
Four Loko’s maker, Phusian Projects is pushing back against the scrutiny, arguing that its product is no different from rum and coke or other traditional drinks that fuse alcohol and caffeine.
“If mixing caffeine and alcohol is the most pressing concern, addressing
it would be best accomplished by creating laws that apply to the entire
caffeinated alcoholic beverage category – not specific, individual
products and not just beers or malt-based products,” said the company in a statement last week. “This is especially
important given that liquor-based beverages have three to four-times the
alcohol content as products like ours. If product-specific bans remain
the preferred course of action, we will protect our rights as a business
to the fullest extent of the law.”
The New York Times reported yesterday that the FDA is expected to take a stand on the drinks “as soon as Wednesday.”
The Times reported that several former agency lawyers predicted that the FDA would issue a warning letter saying that the drinks were adulterated, which deems them unsafe for human consumption.