April 18 2007 at 12:31AM
Washington - US health authorities are warning the makers of a caffeine-loaded beverage called Cocaine Energy Drink that the product is being marketed as a "drug" and could be seized.
The Food and Drug Administration said in a letter this month to Las Vegas-based Redux Beverages LLC that the marketing claims made for the energy drink make it subject to regulation as a drug under US law.
In the April 4 letter, the FDA said the drink, which contains no cocaine or other illegal substances but has a variety of stimulants including caffeine, "is marketed as an alternative to an illicit street drug", with ingredients "intended to prevent, treat, or cure disease conditions".
"Street drug alternatives do not qualify as dietary supplements," said FDA compliance direction Pamela Schweikert in the letter.
The FDA said the claims made for the drink without required authorisation are all violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
"You must immediately correct these violations," the letter said.
"If you do not immediately correct them, you may be subject to enforcement action against you without further notice. The Act provides for the seizure of illegal products and for an injunction against the manufacturer and distributors of illegal products. Individuals and businesses that violate the Act may also be subject to criminal prosecution."
Redux could not be reached for comment. In a statement last week, the company dismissed "rumors and inaccurate reports" that the drink had been banned.
"Redux Beverages has been in constant contact with the FDA and is moving quickly to fully comply with the FDA's requests," the company said. "No interruption in Cocaine sales is expected."
"Cocaine" contains more than 1 100 milligrams of caffeine, slightly more than a large Starbucks coffee, according to the company, and among the highest in the category.
It also contains taurine, an amino acid, and guarana, a stimulant from a South American plant, as well as vitamins and other ingredients. The makers call it "the legal alternative."
The product is one of several in a rapidly growing market for energy drinks worth more than $3,5-billion in the US alone.
But the drink has also drawn fire from local officials, with some municipalities seeking to ban its sales. Last year, the head of the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University called the Redux campaign "irresponsible" and urged retailers not to sell it.