FTC requires packaging changes for Four Loko beverage

WASHINGTON — After the Federal Trade Commission charged the maker of an alcoholic, carbonated malt beverage with deceptive advertising, the company has agreed to make changes to its product's packaging.

Phusion Projects has agreed to only use resealable containers for its Four Loko flavored malt beverages that have more alcohol than the equivalent of two-and-a-half regular 12-oz. beers. The FTC alleged that "Phusion Projects and its principals falsely claimed that a 23.5-oz., 11% or 12% alcohol by volume can of Four Loko contains alcohol equivalent to one or two regular 12-oz. beers, and that a consumer could drink one can safely in its entirety on a single occasion." According to the FTC, one can of Four Loko contains as much alcohol as four to five 12-oz. cans of regular beer and is not safe to drink on a single occasion.

Additionally, the settlement also bars Phusion Projects from misrepresenting the alcohol content of any beverage, and from depicting people drinking directly from the container of any product containing more alcohol than that found in two-and-a-half regular beers.

"Deception about alcohol content is dangerous to consumers, and it's a serious concern for the FTC," said David Vladeck, director of the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Four Loko contains as much alcohol as four or five beers, but it is marketed as a single-serving beverage."

Currently, the 23.5-oz. Four Loko cans are nonresealable and the size of about two regular beer cans.

"Our labeling has always clearly conveyed exactly what’s in the can in bold, capital letters — 23.5 oz. and 12% ABV. Even though we reached an agreement, we don’t share the FTC’s perspective and we disagree with their allegations. We don’t believe there were any violations. Four Loko’s labeling and marketing has never stated that the cans were the equivalent of one to two beers. However, we take legal compliance very seriously and we share the FTC’s interest in making sure consumers get all the information and tools they need to make smart, informed decisions," Phusion Projects cofounder Jaisen Freeman said in a statement.

Phusion Projects recently removed caffeine from its flavored malt beverages after receiving warnings from the government that noted "alcohol containing added caffeine presents unusual risks to health and safety."

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