F.D.A. Says It May Ban Alcoholic Drinks With Caffeine
WASHINGTON — Top federal food regulators threatened on Friday to ban caffeinated alcoholic drinks unless their makers quickly proved that the beverages were safe.
In a statement, the Food and Drug Administration said it had told nearly 30 manufacturers of the drinks that unless they could provide clear evidence of safety, it would “take appropriate action to ensure that the products are removed from the marketplace.” Officials did not say how long such a determination might take.
The drinks, which combine malt liquor or other spirits with caffeine and fruit juices at alcohol concentrations up to about 10 percent, have become increasingly popular among college students. In a news conference, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner, said their consumption was associated with increased risk of serious injury, drunken driving, sexual assault and other dangerous behavior.
The agency’s action was prompted by a letter from 19 state attorneys general, who expressed concern about the products’ safety.
Caffeine may lead people to underestimate how drunk they are, giving drinkers a false sense of confidence that they can perform tasks they are too impaired to undertake.
After pressure from the attorneys general, Anheuser-Busch last year eliminated caffeine and other additives from its flavored malt beverages, Tilt and Bud Extra. And MillerCoors agreed to stop selling its product Sparks.
The brands under scrutiny, which include Joose from United Brands, are being marketed to young people with social marketing tools. United Brands, for instance, has a Twitter site to market Joose.
A call to United Brands was not immediately returned.
Federal law requires makers of products that combine common ingredients to prove that the combinations are safe.
“F.D.A. is not aware of any basis that manufacturers have to conclude that the use of caffeine added to alcoholic beverages is generally recognized as safe,” Dr. Sharfstein said.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group whose lawsuit against MillerCoors over its marketing of Sparks preceded the company’s decision to stop selling the product, praised the agency’s action.
“For many years,” the group said in a statement, “federal regulators have stood mutely by as these potentially dangerous products, which resemble nonalcoholic energy drinks in many ways, gained in popularity among young people.
“In fact, emerging research suggests that the young consumers of these products are more likely to be the perpetrator or victim of sexual aggression, to ride with an intoxicated driver or to become otherwise injured.”
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who co-wrote the letter to the F.D.A., said he was pleased. “Our battle against alcoholic energy drinks has stopped some products,” Mr. Blumenthal said, “but others are insidiously exploiting the void.”
By GARDINER HARRIS
Published: November 13, 2009
SWIM thinks- neither of these drugs is inherently safe on its own- how on Earth would combining the two produce a healthier outcome?