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Alcohol should not be used in caffeine-laced energy drinks

By David Liu and editing by Sheilah Downey

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday, Nov. 14 that it has sent out a letter to about 30 manufacturers for energy drinks with both alcohol and caffeine alerting them to the safety and legality of their products.

The FDA said under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, anything, in this case caffeine, added to food like energy drinks needs to be pre-approved by the agency or recognized as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). In either case, a company needs to file a petition to the FDA.

Caffeine as an additive is approved for use in soft drinks in concentrations of no greater than 200 parts per million or ppm, according to the FDA. But this substance has not been sanctioned for use in alcoholic beverages.

The recipients of the letter will have to respond to the FDA within 30 days. They will need to prove that the use of caffeine in their products is GRAS or prior sanctioned. Otherwise, the FDA said it will take action to ensure that the products are removed from the market.

Caffeinated alcoholic drinks have gained popularity among young adults like college students. The FDA said as many as 26 percent of college students are using the beverages with both alcohol and caffeine.

A small group of scientists have sent a letter to three Attorney Generals explaining that combined use of caffeine and alcohol could lead to more problems associated with alcohol consumption, including increased consumption of alcohol, impaired judgment, injury and violence related to sexual activity.

One recent study of 27 non-caffeine-deprived female participants published in the Aug. 2009 issue of Human Psychopharmacology found that women who consumed the energy drink plus alcohol significantly lower post-test performance on a global score of neuropsychological status, particularly in both visuospatial/constructional and language performance.

Curry K and Stasio MJ.at The University of Tampa in Florida also found consumption of caffeinated beverage alone tended to improve attention scores and neuropsychological status.

They concluded that "Consumption of an energy drink containing 6% alcohol by volume negatively influenced performance on a global measure of cognitive functioning."