FDA Cracking Down on Four Loko, Other Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Sean Johnson

The FDA has apparently had enough of the bad publicity surrounding some popular alcoholic energy drinks and is cracking down on several companies.

Energy drinks are quite popular in the United States, as evidenced by the countless number of options consumers have when they go to their local convenience store. Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, and countless other energy drinks are available in numerous sizes, and some of these energy drinks have been popularly used as a mixer with hard alcohols (ie, Red Bull and vodka drinks). But the idea of combining energy drinks with alcohol was taken to a whole new level by several companies that released drinks combining both of these elements in the same bottle. The first iterations of such drinks were nearly 10 years ago, with one of the first alcoholic energy drinks being produced by Budweiser, a product called Sparks that is still available today.

But recently, the FDA has begun to investigate the dangers of such beverages in the name of public health. In fact, just today the FDA sent warning letters to four manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks explaining that it is unsafe to include caffeine in the beverages. One of the beverages in particular, called Four Loko, has been in the news several times recently for less-than-desirable reasons, which has no doubt helped fuel the FDA’s recent investigation into the effects of consuming such drinks. Four Loko, which is a fruit drink containing 12% alcohol, was the blame for one family’s hallucinogenic nightmare that had a 43-year old man convinced that he had to kill his wife and then himself. Not even a week later, the same drink was blamed by one boy’s parents for his accidental death. The continued bad publicity and public health concerns led New York City and Massachusetts to ban the drink. And now, the fallout has led to even more drastic changes.

Phusion Projects LLC, the company that produces Four Loko, has already announced that caffeine will be removed from all of their alcoholic beverages. Phusion co-founders Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman have released a statement saying that “We have repeatedly contended -- and still believe, as do many people throughout the country -- that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe. If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees that have been consumed safely and responsibly for years would face the same scrutiny that our products have recently faced.” Whether or not that is the case, the New York Times reports that “although there is little research on the effects of mixing caffeine and alcohol, several studies have suggested that people get more intoxicated and engage in riskier behavior when they drink the combination beverages than they do when they drink alcohol alone.”

Around the Web:

FDA Warning Letters issued to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages [FDA]

F.D.A. Issues Warning Over Alcoholic Energy Drinks [NY Times]

Phusion Projects, maker of Four Loko, to remove caffeine from its alcoholic drinks [Washington Post]

U.S. Threatens Ban of Alcoholic Energy Drinks Amid Growing Concerns [Fox Business]