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Schumer: FDA, FTC to act on caffeinated booze

By Rob Stein

Federal officials are taking steps against those caffeinated alcoholic beverages that have become increasingly popular and have raised alarm among public health authorities, law enforcement and state officials, according to a Senator.

The Food and Drug Administration will rule that caffeine is an unsafe substance to add to alcoholic beverages, "effectively making products such as Four Loko, Joose, and others like them, prohibited for sale in the United States," according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). In addition, the Federal Trade Commission plans to notify companies making the product that "they are engaged in the potential illegal marketing of unsafe alcoholic drinks," Schumer said in a statement.

"Let these rulings serve as a warning to anyone who tried to peddle dangerous and toxic brews to our children. Do it and we will shut you down," Schumer said. "This ruling should be the nail in the coffin of these dangerous and toxic drinks. Parents should be able to rest a little easier knowing that soon their children won't have access to this deadly brew."

The FTC would not comment on Schumer's statement. In an email, FDA spokesperson Beth Martino said: "At this point, all I can say is that FDA is reviewing the scientific data regarding the safety of these drinks."

Pressure has been building on the federal government to do something about the drinks. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Attorney General and Sen.-elect Richard Blumenthal (D), Monday urged the FDA to act on a request made more than year ago to take action on the drinks.

The concern is that because these drinks contain high levels of both alcohol and caffeine, young people do not realize how drunk they are. That puts them at risk for a variety of dangers, including drunk driving, alcohol poisoning and committing or being the victim of sexual assaults, experts say.

One drink, called Four Loko, is the equivalent of drinking at least several cans of beer and a cup of coffee. It has become the focus of most of the criticism after several high-profile incidents. Students at Central Washington University in Washington State and Ramapo College in New Jersey ended up in the emergency room after consuming the drink. Some of the students had such high alcohol levels in their blood that they were treated for alcohol poisoning.

Washington State and Michigan have already banned the sale of these drinks, and other states are considering similar action. Individual colleges have also banned the drinks. After Schumer and other New York officials pushed for action there, Phusion Projects of Chicago, which makes Four Loko, announced over the weekend that the company was voluntarily ceasing sales in New York.

The FDA has said that the issue is a high priority. The agency sent letters to nearly 30 companies that make the drinks in November 2009, notifying them that the FDA planned to investigate their safety and legality. The FDA requested each company justify why the products should be considered legal and stay on the market. The agency says it has been reviewing the responses and other information before deciding what action to take.

In his letter to the FDA, Blumenthal called the drinks a "witch's brew of stimulants and alcohol" that create "energized drunks who pose a serious threat to themselves and others. By masking the effects of alcohol with a stimulant, they encourage risky behavior and dangerous overconsumption."

By Rob Stein  | November 16, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  FDA, Food Safety and Recalls  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: FDA accused of contempt of court regarding morning-after pill
Next: Medicare panel eyes cancer vaccine


Damn socialists! Businesses should be allowed to kill us as long as they're making a profit. Think of all the jobs they are creating.

Posted by: vmax02rider | November 16, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Will Irish Coffee also be banned?!? St Paddy's will never be the same!

As for protecting children, children are already prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages in any form.

If your adult offspring are still stupid, "parents", YOU BLEW IT, and should face the consequences.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | November 16, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

There was a scandal some time ago with a cocktail that involved vodka and Red Bull (don't try this at home, kiddies). It seems they were substituting another energy drink for the Red Bull at one bar in Colorado. Now we have the FDA making definitions. In my law enforcement experience I discovered that a drunk who drinks black coffee to sober up become wide awake drunks. I also know that rum and cola, whiskey and cola and other cola mixtures are a significant part of the culture. Mr Schumer surely knows that activities of adults re: alcohol have not been prohibited by the federal government since 1934. States, on the other hand, may prohibit import of any and all alcohol products in the only constitutional exception to the Commerce Clause.

Posted by: JarlWolf | November 16, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Has Senator Schumer really never heard of a Jaegerbomb, or is he deliberately feigning indignity as some kind of political act? The fact of the matter is that people have been mixing alcohol with caffeinated drinks for a long, long time, and banning the latest campus fad is not going to stop that from happening.

Posted by: jasonaorr | November 16, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Why the hell does weasel Schumer have any say about it? He is abdicating Congress' legislative role to the executive branch. If Schumer had any balls he would be asserting congressional authority in this matter.

Posted by: screwjob22 | November 16, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Seriously. What's the word on Irish Coffee? And how are these things worse than Red Bull and vodka?

Posted by: hesaid | November 16, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The marketing concept for these drinks is the same as crack cocaine - cheap cost per dose for a lower income group, namely students. Reading the comments on the Four Loco Facebook page will scare you - just like many who comment here. Telling the parents that lost a daughter "you blew it" is cruel and mindless.
Crack cocaine and these liquid forms of it need to be illegal nationwide. Thank you FDA, if only it were a month ago, our community wouldn't have lost a loved one.

Posted by: rick18 | November 16, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Yawn. Schumer needs to pressure the FDA to act on drugs that are *actually* unsafe, not merely unsafe with abuse.

Anyone ever heard of Vioxx?

Posted by: herrbrahms | November 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Regulations such as that proposed are not meant to stop people from poisoning themselves. The curtailing of mass produced, attractively packaged, deceptive beverages aimed at pubertal targets cannot be bad. Even young people should be have to mix their own poison.

Posted by: Draesop | November 16, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"Parents can rest assured" that they can continue not putting much thought at all into the topic of their own children because a senator from New York is doing it for them.

Posted by: shuckandjive | November 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Once again, the Nanny State is becoming more and more of a reality. All of the people who became sick, were underage and some even had cocaine, marijuana and other drugs in their systems. It tells you what is in the can, it says 12% alcohol and caffeine, taurine and guarana. If they are going to outlaw this, why won't they outlaw cigarettes? Oh wait, they get tax money from cigarettes.

Posted by: Jsuf | November 16, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

All alcohol kills. Plenty of DUI fatalities to go around. But some idiot thinks banning this will help. Kids will move on to something else. What is next on the ban list you freaking socialists in the government?

Posted by: unreal3 | November 16, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, what a joke!!

All Loko has to do is to sell it in two parts, right? One part has caffeine, no booze; the other booze, no caffeine. Loco Parts 1 & 2. Then the user mixes them together. This would still be legal, right????


Posted by: thompst1 | November 16, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

yeah more of what we need, the government telling us what we can put into our bodies.

Posted by: mocoresider09 | November 16, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

What's all this about "children" in the statement. Last time I checked, you have to be 21+ to drink legally and people who are at least 21 are not children. People who are 18+, including most college students, are not children either.

I'm off to do some vodka shots and take a few No-Doze. Glad the FDA is on top of those alcohol/caffeine drinks.

Posted by: lalalu1 | November 16, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Now you have to go to two different stores to buy your coffee and your booze.

No more hot buttered rum in your hot chocolate....

big brother is watching (out for) you.

Posted by: docwhocuts | November 16, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Now you have to go to two different stores to buy your coffee and your booze.

No more hot buttered rum in your hot chocolate....

big brother is watching (out for) you.

Posted by: docwhocuts | November 16, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I have a better idea. Instead of messing with hot chocolate with some Godiva liqueur, why not arrest the underage drinkers? Why punish those who act responsible rather than punishing the lawbreakers?

Posted by: alterego3 | November 16, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

It'd only make sense if they were limiting how much caffeine/alcohol was in each can. Outright banning it sets a vicious precedent for future arbitration.

Posted by: RandomAnon | November 16, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Who spiked Schumie's halvah?

Posted by: phvr38 | November 16, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

"...Telling the parents that lost a daughter "you blew it" is cruel and mindless.
Crack cocaine and these liquid forms of it need to be illegal nationwide. Thank you FDA, if only it were a month ago, our community wouldn't have lost a loved one."

Posted by: rick18
The parents didn't blow it. If that person was over 18, then they themselves as a irresponsible adult blew it. A few people from a group statistically prone to overconsumption are not indicative of an epidemic. The ingredients can both still be commonly bought, and un-caffeinated alcohol is and has been readily available. The choice to purchase and use without moderation was that of an individual's lack of sober judgement. You're letting your emotions dictate your morals.

Posted by: RandomAnon | November 16, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

People have been mixing alcohol and caffeine in cocktails since Prohibition. Having a suite of new products that premix the two is really no different.
We have a problem with children and alcohol largely because too many parents are just "happy its not drugs".
This ex-bartender can tell you, alcohol has taken and/or destroyed more lives in this country than all the controlled substances that have ever existed, so stop playing games about it! I look at drunken teens and wish they were smoking pot; its non-addictive, and typically much less intoxicating than the binge drinking that the kids are into lately.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | November 16, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

This really sounds un-American. Restricting adults from making whatever choices they want really doesn't jive with the American notion of freedom, and I find it really suspect, as do probably lots of other people.

Regarding "children," children are already prohibited from buying alcohol and wouldn't be able to legally get their hands on this product unless they're over 21. Illegal underage drinking, well that's another matter entirely.

Posted by: eugene8 | November 16, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the dangers of the drink - it's the LEVEL of caffeine that makes it dangerous, not the presence of caffeine itself.

Posted by: whitneyuevans | November 16, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Guys act like Ultra-Invincible Idiot Man on that stuff, whether 14, 24, 42, or 84 years old. Ask any bouncer.

Posted by: Zontag | November 16, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Black White Hub * C o m is a nice and free place for SINGLES- a nice and free place for singles- black & white, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or- tell your friends.

Posted by: abulaw | November 16, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm done with the Democrats. I'm going back to the Libertarians. What a bunch of garbage.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | November 17, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

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