A growing avalanche of states moving to ban the trendy alcoholic beverage known as 4loko, has snowballed into an outright warning from the FDA that the drink are now illegal to produce. Late on Wednesday, the FDA sent a warning letter to Phusion Projects , manufacturer of Four Loko, as well as fifteen other manufactures of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that they have “15 days to either reformulate their products or face possible seizure under federal law, according to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner.” The Food and Drug Administration action comes after a year-long review of the beverages. The agency’s deputy commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein stated, “FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard,” Sharfstein told reporters. “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”
As a pre-emptive strike to the decree by the FDA, Phuison Projects announced earlier in the week that they planned on reformulating their product resulting in the removal of the stimulant aspect of the drink. In a press release, Phusion Projects stated 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.”
The call to ban Four Loko follows sensationalized media reports of underage drinkers becoming seriously ill and even dying after long drinking binges. The lead buried in those stories is that the inherent problem involved is reckless underage drinking and not the drink itself. It’s the American way to deflect blame and forgo self-examination. One death is attributed to Four Loko, occurred when a young woman crashed her car into a tree after consuming two cans. While this is tragic, the cause of her death was not the product, but rather her poor choice to drink and drive. Four Loko is inherently safe if consumed in moderation. There are copious amounts of products that can lead to serious health complications if abused and misused. Why single one out because of the media scare machine? Instead of questioning the alarming rate of binge-drinking and underage drinking on college campuses, the media focuses on a red herring-Four Loko. While it isn’t necessarily healthy to consume a product, we simply, as Americans cannot let hysteria lead to reactionary and illogical outcries.
Compare Four Loko to something thought of as relatively benign: over the counter cold medicine. An article published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine entitled “Pediatric Fatalities Associated With Over-The-Counter (Nonprescription) Cough and Cold Medications” states that FDA , between 1996 and 2007, found 103 related deaths for children under six due to over the counter cold medicine. The FDA was the entity that concluded this product was unsafe for children under a certain, yet they merely ‘recommended a prohibition against the use of such drugs in children under the age of six”.
One of the most popular cocktails in clubs these days is Vodka and Red Bull. It is what has propelled Red Bull into a mega success. Studies show that the mixture of this drink is as equally and if not more potent than Four Loko (which contains, on average, much less alcohol by volume than most Vodkas). The same study concluded that those who consume energy drinks at least once a week are twice as likely as those in their peer group to show dependence on alcohol. You would think that on the heels of this eye-opening report that there would have been a push to ban energy drinks-and yet, there has been none.
The solution to the Four Loko ‘crisis’ is simple: college campuses need to offer counseling programs to students who have substance abuse issues. Students need to be taught that binge drinking is not the way to have a good time and that if you are having issues relating to depression, that it is okay to seek help. The root cause of the problems with drinking Four Loko isn’t the product itself. Drinking legally and being responsible generally will never result in any ambulance rides Unfortunately, the media will continue to demonize a product and not the behavior of those causing the issues. Sadly, this has solidified itself as the American way.