Dangers of caffeinated liquor scrutinized
A November ruling by the Food and Drug Administration stating caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic beverages like Four Loko will have widespread implications for both retailers and those looking to purchase the caffeine-infused drinks, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection.
Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Four Loko by Phusion Projects, Joose by United Brands, Core by Charge Beverages and Moonshot by New Century Brewing are considered adulterated, and are expected to be off the shelves by Dec. 13. The companies must immediately stop producing and shipping their beverages.
"The Department of Consumer Protection has been working with the wholesalers and the manufacturers of the Four Loko products," according to Claudette Carveth, spokesperson of the DCP.
"Wholesalers have been picking up the product from their retail accounts and returning them to the wholesalers warehouses....In addition, in discussions with the manufacturers of the Core products, it was determined that only a relatively small amount of Core had been delivered to wholesalers in Connecticut, and none since September 2010. We are working with them closely to ensure their prompt removal from Connecticut. We have also been in contact with United Brands, which delivers Joose products to wholesalers. Those products, which are embargoed, may face ultimate seizure and destruction, unless a prompt and complete plan of return is submitted to the department."
A 28-year-old Norwalk man was arrested last Friday after he allegedly bought Four Loko for six teens, including his 14 year-old nephew, Norwalk police said.
Police charged Carlos Alberto Gomez with six counts of risk of injury to a minor. He was held in lieu of $5,000 bond.
The DCP has also said DCP agents will conduct site inspections for wholesale and liquor retailer compliance.
"Failure to cooperate may result in the filing of administrative charges by the DCP, which could result in civil penalties, suspension or revocation of permits," according to the DCP.
"It is believed that the caffeine in the beverage temporarily suppresses the user's feeling of intoxication, which could lead the user to drink more than is safe," Carveth said.
In a letter to Phusion Projects, the FDA stated its concern for caffeinated alcoholic beverages leading to "hazardous and life-threatening situations because caffeine counteracts some, but not all, of alcohol's adverse effects."
In addition, the FDA is concerned that --¦because caffeine alters the perception of alcohol intoxication, the consumption of pre-mixed products containing added caffeine and alcohol may result in higher amounts of alcohol consumed per drinking occasion, a situation that is particularly dangerous for naïve drinkers."
In Maryland, friends and family of a 21-year-old who died early in November after she crashed a pickup truck into a telephone poll blamed Four Loko, the drink some are calling "blackout-in-a-can."
And in Florida, the family of a 20-year-old man, who shot and killed himself after allegedly binge drinking Four Loko, is suing Phusion Projects for wrongful death.