On the heels of the fight to keep caffeine-packed alcoholic “energy drinks” out of the hands of young people, a new health concern is emerging over a new product -- whipped cream with a twist.
Cans of flavored alcohol-infused whipped cream, yes whipped cream, with names like Cream and Whipped Lightening have been popping up on local liquor store shelves. Much like the alcoholic energy drinks that the Federal Drug Administration threatened to ban in November (the maker of the controversial Four Loko brand has agreed to remove caffeine and two other ingredients, guarana and taurine), the toppings come in flavors like raspberry, German chocolate, cherry, Amaretto, caramel and vanilla flavors, which are especially inviting to young people. Similarly these so-called “whipahols” also pack a powerful punch at 15 percent alcohol, about 30-proof. Depending on how much is consumed, some experts contend, that can be about three times the amount found in beer.
“It just exacerbates an already prevalent problem,” said Cobb Alcohol Taskforce spokeswoman Alisa Bennett-Hart. “It’s providing a non-sophisticated audience with another product that sends them over the limit of moderate drinking. It’s an insidious way of sneaking a ‘drink’ to an unsophisticated audience.”
The fruit flavors mask the taste of alcohol, driving concern that the product, often used as a topping for shots and other alcoholic drinks at college parties, might put young, inexperienced drinkers unknowingly at risk for dangerous intoxication levels. The products sell for about $10-$12 for a 375 ml. canister.
“What we want is for the makers of these products to do a better job of making the people who sell it at the stores aware that these products contain alcohol,” said Bennett-Hart, of the non-profit that fights underage drinking in Cobb County. “The packaging needs to be clear. The [Federal Trade Commission] seems to think it’s not being posted correctly. They feel that these products are misleading and don’t have the proper signage.”
Bennett-Hart said instead of banning the product, which could inadvertently increase its popularity among young people, the task force hopes to work with state legislators, the Tax and Trade Bureau and other entities that “have regulatory oversight” to better “control the flow of these products to the consumer.”
Along with concerns about excessive or binge drinking, some also worry that kids who engage in a dangerous practice known as “huffing” might also attempt to get high from the nitrous oxide in the pressurized whipped cream cans.
“We’ve not seen a case of kids abusing these particular products to get high,” said Colleen Creighton, executive director of the Washington-D.C. based Alliance for Consumer Education. “If we know a product is being abused, then we get involved. For now we just encourage parents and adults to monitor their kids for the signs of inhalant abuse.”
“We’ve had parents write in and say they’ve found cooking spray and gas containers in their kid's bedroom and they want to know what to do,” she said. “There are now over 1,400 products being abused in this way.”
Incidentally two Atlantans invented Whipped Lightening, which is available in many states including Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and Texas. Paul Urbanowicz and Tyler Moore reportedly spent a couple years perfecting their product touted as “the world’s first alcohol-infused whipped cream.”
We found Cream at a Buckhead liquor store for $11.99 a can for either chocolate, vanilla or caramel flavors. The clerk said they’d just begun selling it a week ago. He said recent media coverage over concerns about the product, including reports on CNN and a recent Boston Herald story, seemed to have generated the few sales they’d made so far. “It’s good,” he said. “I’ve tried it myself.”