FDA warns makers of alcoholic energy drinks

Posted November 17, 2010

— The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters Wednesday to four manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks, saying the caffeine added to their beverages is an "unsafe food additive."

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks is a public health concern and can lead to "a state of wide-awake drunk." Evidence has shown their consumption has led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults, she said.

The government can seize the products if the companies continue to make them.

Several college students have been hospitalized in recent months after consuming the drinks. The FDA said experts have raised concerns that the caffeine in the drinks can mask a person's feeling of intoxication, leading to risky behavior.

In response to such incidents, four states — Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma — have banned the beverages. Other states are considering similar action.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue called last Friday for manufacturers to voluntarily take the drinks off shelves statewide.

“I commend the FDA for acting today to remove these drinks from store shelves. This is about public safety," Perdue said in a statement Wednesday. "There are serious questions about the health risks of these products.”

Phusion Projects, which manufactures Four Loko, announced late Tuesday that it would reformulate its drinks, removing caffeine.

The company's statement said it was removing caffeine from the drinks after unsuccessfully trying to deal with "a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels."

"We have repeatedly contended — and still believe, as do many people throughout the country — that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe," said Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman, who identify themselves as Phusion's three co-founders and current managing partners.

Four Loko comes in several varieties, including fruit punch and blue raspberry. A 23.5-ounce can sells for about $2.50 and has an alcohol content of 12 percent, comparable to four beers, according to the company's website.

The FDA said it views Phusion Projects' announcement as a positive step, but officials said they have not yet heard directly from the company about its timeline for taking the drinks off the market. The FDA also issued warning letters to Charge Beverages Corp., New Century Brewing Co. and United Brands Company Inc.

Last year the FDA notified more than two dozen manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that it never had specifically approved the addition of caffeine to alcoholic drinks and began studying whether it was unsafe and should be outlawed. The agency noted the mix's growing popularity among college students and its potential health and safety issues.



FDA Warning letters:


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  • webberx101 Nov 17, 2010

    Mandatory 10 years for 'Kilo' of Starbucks ?!

  • sarahsoandso Nov 17, 2010

    You can't stop Irish coffee. Ohhh yyyyeah.

  • cge061367 Nov 17, 2010


  • Twittyfan Nov 17, 2010

    Well call me crazy but what is the difference in a kid getting beer or liquor.. It is the parents responsibility to teach kids about alcohol and the dangers but regardless they will get a hold of it.. If you are able to fight for freedom and graduate from high school you should be able to drink.. The stores should check id's so they would not be giving it to minors.. Think about it we were all young and we still got alcohol.. This is not going to solve any problems Bev...

  • flapy Nov 17, 2010

    did some one really go into the library at state naked while on 4 loko?

  • baron2ci Nov 17, 2010

    The FDA can't keep salmonella and E. coli out of food so they have to justify their existence and bloated budget by keeping caffeine out of beer.

  • GreenBean Nov 17, 2010

    Thank you Govt. Can you pad my driveway as well? I fell yesterday and I'm afraid I might get hurt in the future.

  • Mugu Nov 17, 2010

    The FDA is taking the place of parents who should be telling their precious little angels how to behave. Parents nowadays are so absent minded, it makes me fear what their kids are going to be when they grow up.

  • howbizzare Nov 17, 2010

    LOL @ deutschgirl & uncwjeff!!!

  • rdmcswai Nov 17, 2010

    Shagmyers - Your reference to the library incident cracked me up! Haha! Thanks for that!