The federal government has ordered beverage companies to stop selling drinks that combine caffeine and alcohol in U.S. markets. The drinks with names like Four Loko, Joose and Moonshot, are often nicknamed ‘Cocaine in a Can’ or ‘Blackout in a Can’ by teens and young adults. USAToday.com reports the companies that produce these drinks, including Phusion Projects and United Brands, have 15 days to comply or the FDA may seize their products. The fruit flavored drinks have deceptively high alcohol content and produce what some experts call a ‘wide-awake drunk’ that police link to accidents and illnesses across the country. In Georgia, activists like the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce have been pushing for a ban. Coordinator Cathy Finck told JJIE.org, “When you mix a depressant like alcohol with a stimulant like caffeine it confuses the nervous system in the body… Binge drinking is more likely to occur with this potent mixture. One brand in particular has 12 percent alcohol in just one can.
The Food and Drug Administration is under pressure to ban alcoholic energy drinks, according to the Washington Post. An investigation has been underway since last year as to whether the drinks meet the FDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” standard. If there is a consensus that energy cocktails are safe, they will be exempted from FDA review, according to MedPage Today. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) along with Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal (D), who is currently Connecticut’s attorney general, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg Monday urging her speed up the investigation. Blumenthal pushed for the agency to ban the drinks, calling them “a witch’s brew of stimulants and alcohol,” the Washington Post notes.
On two separate occasions this year Cathy Finck lined up energy drink cans before a group of teenagers and their parents and asked them to point out which ones did or did not contain alcohol. Neither crowd passed the informal test. (Take our test here)
“Very few got all of the answers right because the packaging for both look very much the same,” she recalls, noting that both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions typically are packaged in brightly-colored cans with eye-catching graphics. “It’s really hard to tell the difference. That’s very disturbing considering the fact that the majority of those who drink these drinks are young people.”
Finck and fellow Cobb Alcohol Taskforce members say that the outcome of their exercises conveys one of the many reasons why the caffeine-laden alcoholic energy drinks often marketed to young people should be permanently pulled from Georgia store shelves.