Pressure builds on FDA to take action on caffeinated alcohol
Pressure is building on the federal government to do something about those caffeinated alcoholic drinks that have become increasingly popular, especially among college students.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Attorney General and Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal (D), on Monday urged the Food and Drug Administration 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 dangers such as drunk driving, alcohol poisoning and 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 them 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 bans. After Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) 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.
But patience is clearly running out among some lawmakers. Schumer criticized the agency last week for taking so long, and DeLauro said the FDA should "consider banning Four Loko if the agency's investigation confirms the link that consumption of these drinks results in serious health consequences and even death."
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."
| November 15, 2010; 4:02 PM ET
Categories: Alcohol and Drugs, FDA
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