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FDA: Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks Are Unsafe

Agency Issues Warning About Four Loko and Other Drinks That Mix Caffeine and Alcohol
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 17, 2010 -- Federal officials have warned four companies that caffeine added to some of their alcoholic beverages makes their drinks unsafe and has asked the companies to provide data concerning these safety concerns.

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued similar warning letters to these companies:

  • Charge Beverages Corp., of Portland, Ore., which sells Core High Gravity HG Green, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked.
  • New Century Brewing Co., of Boston, which produces Moonshot.
  • Phusion Projects, based in Chicago, which sells Four Loko.
  • United Brands Co., based in San Diego, which markets Joose and Max.

‘Unsafe’ Food Additives

The FTC says its letters warn that caffeine as used in the companies’ products is an “unsafe food additive” under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).

“Consumers might mistakenly assume that these beverages are safe because they are widely sold,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, says in a news release. “In fact, there is good reason to believe that these caffeinated alcohol drinks pose significant risks to consumer health and safety.”

He says consumers, especially young, inexperienced drinkers, “may not realize how much alcohol they have consumed because caffeine can mask the sense of intoxication.”

The FTC’s statement says the agency “strongly” urges the companies to review the way they are marketing the products and orders the firms to “take swift and appropriate steps to protect consumers.”

Both federal agencies give the companies 15 days to comply with government directives.

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