Local News

Perdue: Alcoholic energy drinks should be off shelves in N.C.

Posted November 12, 2010 3:46 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2010 11:38 p.m. EST

— Gov. Bev Perdue on Friday called for manufacturers to voluntarily withdraw malt beverages containing stimulants from the North Carolina market until they are found to be safe.

The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will take up the question of restricting the products at its scheduled meeting on Thursday, Perdue’s office said.

The beer-based beverages are fruit-flavored, sold in large, non-resealable cans and contain 12 percent alcohol. The drinks also contain varying amounts of caffeine and other ingredients that act as stimulants and, experts believe, encourage continued drinking.

The drinks are sold in convenience stores, groceries and other locations that hold ABC permits in North Carolina.

“Teenagers and college students are drinking these drinks and ending up in the hospital,” Perdue said in a statement. “The time to act on this is now, before we are faced with the death of one of our young people. The only responsible way to allow these drinks on our shelves is to first carefully review their health effects.”

ABC Chairman Jon Williams said these drinks contain enough alcohol and caffeine to equal up to five beers and four sodas. 

"You are defeating your body's natural defenses against over-consumption of alcohol," he said. 

Tony King, a junior at Campbell University, said he is familiar with the effect these drinks can have. 

"If you drink two of them, you are pretty wasted," he said. 

Michigan, Utah, Oklahoma and Washington state have issued short-term bans on such drinks.

Authorities said nine Central Washington University students were hospitalized after drinking caffeinated malt liquor beverage Four Loko at an off-campus party in October.

"We have seen house parties and other situations where underage drinkers are consuming the products to excess," Williams said. 

Williams said his proposal would take the beverages out of stores starting 68 days after Thursday's meeting. He wants to consult with medical experts and manufacturers about the drinks' ingredients.

"I don't think there is a need to pull it, but I could see how it could be a problem for underage people," King said. 

The makers of Four Loko, Phusion Projects Inc. of Chicago, said their company goes to great lengths to make sure consumers know what their product is and how to consume it.

"Our cans feature seven different warning labels, our alcohol-by-volume warning is in a font as large as is allowed by law, and we work alongside our distributors and the stores that sell our products to ensure they are marketed, sold and consumed lawfully and responsibly," the company said in a statement.

"We understand that the governor is attempting to address the twin challenges of alcohol abuse and underage drinking – but this approach will do nothing to curb either. The only way to do that is with more education and awareness, stricter enforcement of existing alcohol laws and a sincere commitment by all involved to address the real issues at hand."

The company added that Perdue's efforts should be focused on "caffeinated liquor-based products, which contain three to four times as much alcohol as our products."