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FDA calls for removal of caffeine from alcoholic drinks

by nickj on November 18, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned the makers of several alcoholic energy drinks Wednesday that their products are a threat to public health and a violation of federal law in their present forms.

The drinks, commonly referred to as "blackout[s] in a can," have recently fallen under public scrutiny after college students who consumed Four Loko ended up in the emergency room with alarmingly high blood-alcohol contents. According to many health experts, the stimulant-depressant combination is unsafe because it creates a "wide-awake drunk" that makes it difficult to tell when to stop drinking, reports CNN. Several states have already banned the drinks.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires prior approval by the FDA or proof by the manufacturer that any substance intentionally added to a product is "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). The addition of caffeine to alcoholic beverages has not been sanctioned by either method. The FDA sent letters about a year ago to the companies requesting that they evidence the safety of their products. The organization also warned that it would take action to remove the products from the market if they did not meet approval.

Phusion Projects, the company that makes Four Loko, has already agreed to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine from their products, though they have "repeatedly contended – and still believe, as do many people throughout the country – that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe," reports the Washington Post.

The Federal Trade Commission simultaneously warned the companies that their marketing may be deceptive, giving consumers the illusion of safety due to the widespread availability of the drinks, reports Reuters.

A recent FDA report found that the prevalence of combined caffeine and alcohol drinks among college students was as high as 26 percent.

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