FDA bans Four Loko, other alcoholic energy drinks
Four Loko, a popular alcoholic energy drink, has been a hot topic for quite some time in media reports, which linked at least one fatal incident to drinking the beverage.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter on Nov 17 to request four companies to stop selling caffeinated malt alcoholic beverages including the one producing Four Loko.
The FDA said the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an unsafe food addictive.
The four companies and their products affected are Charge Beverages Corp. (Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked), New Century Brewing Co., LLC (Moonshot), Phusion Projects, LLC (Four Loko) and United Brands Company Inc.(Joose and Max).
The FDA said it based its action on a scientific review of studies, experts' opinions on caffeine and alcohol, and tests results from the agency's independent analysis of these products. It concluded that caffeine is not "generally recognized as safe" in alcoholic beverages.
The FDA did not elaborate how dangerous alcoholic beverages can be in its press release. But it said caffeine can mask "some of the sensory cues" drinkers rely on to determine their level of intoxication.
Studies show drinkers tend to drink more alcohol when caffeine is added into the drink, yet caffeine did not modify the intoxicating effect of alcohol, according to an article published in the April 2010 issue of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
David L. Weldy MD, Ph.D., author of the article, of the University of Toledo College of Medicine in Ohio said "ingesting alcohol and energy drinks together is associated with a decrease awareness of the physical and mental impairment caused by the alcohol without reducing the actual impairment."
One study published in the April 2010 issue of Addictive Behaviors found bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks (like Four Loko) were three times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and four times more likely to intend to drive upon leaving the bar, compared with those who did not drink the mixed beverage.
The study of 802 bar patrons in a U.S. college bar district was conducted by Dennis Thombsa and colleagues from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
The FDA said the companies have 15 days to respond to its request. The agency wanted to be informed of "the specific steps that will be taken to remedy the violation and prevent its recurrence." If it does not receive a satisfying response, it will enlist the U.S. Marshall Service to seize their products, among other things.
A health observer said alcohol per se is unsafe to consume. To say the least, alcoholic beverages have been recognized by the U.S. National Toxicology Program as a human carcinogen or cancer-causing agent, meaning drinking alcohol can boost cancer risk.
Drinking alcohol caused 14,406 deaths from liver disease and 23,199 non-alcohol induced deaths in the United States in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jimmy Downs and editing by Rachel Stockton