Following on the footsteps of regulators in Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington, the New York State Liquor Authority has banned the sale and distribution of alcoholic energy drinks, like Four Loko and Joose, as of November 19 (Utah's state-run alcoholic beverage distribution system never allowed their sale).
Today, the Food and Drug Administration's actions--issuing warning letters to four manufacturers of the drinks, saying the caffeine added to their beverages is an "unsafe food additive"--may effectively do the same across the country.[jump]
The AP reports that, after a yearlong review, the FDA has determined the alcohol/caffeine combination is a public health concern and that the government could seize the products if the companies violate their directive to discontinue production.
Sweet flavors tend to mask the beverage's high alcohol content (12% in some cases) which has led to multiple cases of alcohol poisoning. Overindulging in alcohol tends to put people to sleep--that's the body's safety mechanism to keep you from drinking more--but, the danger with these drinks, health experts say, is that the caffeine makes people keep drinking beyond their limits or think they are safe to drive.
Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, announced on Tuesday that it will be removing caffeine from its drinks.
"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 . . . would face the same scrutiny that our products recently faced," said Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman, the company's managing partners.
After a recent taste test, The Hot Dish won't be sipping any more Four Loko anytime soon, but the Phusion guys do have a point. It's not okay for a beverage manufacturer to mix caffeine and alcohol, but it's perfectly okay for a bartender?
More posts: Check out our taste test of two alcoholic energy drinks: Four Loko vs. Joose