The FDA is stopping just short of banning energy drinks with alcohol in them. Is this an important step in improving health and product safety, or is this a case of a last minute response to an unfortunate incident?
A few years ago, there was a drink called a "Viagra," that was a mixture of the energy drink "Redbull" and vodka. Popular with people who wanted energy to keep dancing into the early morning hours at nightclubs, the drink combined alcohol and caffeine, just like the now infamous cans of Four Loko.
Until a few weeks ago Four Loko wasn't on the radar of most Americans. Then 17 college students were hospitalized after drinking it. Not surprisingly, The FDA has taken the opportunity to emerge from their year-long review of 40 such products, and is taking a strong stance against Four Loko and 6 similar beverages. CNN reports that the products must be pulled from store shelves in 15 days and the recipes reformulated. The makers of Four Loko have decided to remove all caffeine from their recipe.
But why is this a health issue? After all, people have been drinking alcoholic drinks with caffeine for decades. For example, most of us are familiar with a drink called an Irish Coffee, typically made with caffeinated coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and thick cream. There are many other coffee-based liquors, and coffee-based mixed drinks as well.
One answer has to do with the alcohol delivery system. In the case of Four Loko and similar products, the cans look very much like tall cans of soda or iced tea. Buyers may not expect a high level of alcohol when it's marketed to look like a soda (in what seems to be a clear attempt to appeal to younger drinkers). As it turns out, Four Loko has 12 percent alcohol and is 23.5 ounces. That means drinking a single can is very similar to drinking an entire bottle of wine or just under five 12 ounce cans of Budweiser! Few people feel comfortable downing an entire bottle of wine or drinking a combined whopping 60 ounce glass of beer, but a tall alcoholic can of sweet soda is all too easy to drink.
Of course, if people want to drink too much, it's very difficult to stop them. But among the many ways American businesses excel is their careful and powerful marketing techniques that are designed to bypass our more sensible ideas, pull out our wallets and buy, buy, buy! Do you think these types of drinks should be banned?
Alcoholic Content Tip:
Marketing can be deceptive, so take a quick glance to see what the alcohol content is of the product you're drinking. To help you gauge how much you're drinking, wine is typically 12% alcohol and a glass is usually 5 ounces. A domestic beer is typically 5% alcohol and is glass is 12 ounces (although in bars and restaurants it can be 16 ounces).
FDA calls 7 caffeine-alcohol drinks unsafe
Four (energy drink)
Four Loko Lawsuit: Did Caffeinated Alcohol Cause Death?