SILVER SPRING, Md. — A class of alcoholic beverages that rapidly became popular among young people over the last few years is headed for the drain.
The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to four manufacturers of beverages that combine high amounts of alcohol and caffeine, effectively issuing a federal ban on the beverages.
Companies receiving the letters are Portland, Ore.-based Charge Beverages, the maker of the Core High Gravity line of drinks; Chicago-based Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko; Boston-based New Century Brewing, which makes Moonshot; and La Mesa, Calif.-based United Brands, the maker of Joose and Max.
The FDA, which said its action was based on review of scientific literature and its own research, threatened seizure of the beverages if the companies failed to comply, though Phusion Projects had announced Tuesday its intention to remove caffeine from its products, which the FDA called a “positive step.” According to the research, the high levels of caffeine in the drinks can mask the effects of drunkenness.
“[The] 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,” FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said. “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”
Caffeinated alcoholic drinks, particularly Four Loko –– which contains up to 12% alcohol in a 23.5-oz. can and as much caffeine as two or three cups of coffee –– have gained widespread attention amid reports of young people engaging in dangerous behavior and suffering injuries or dying after drinking them.