Sunday, November 7, 2010

Alcohol and Caffeine - a Potent Mix

Last year the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to 27 manufacturers of alcoholic beverages containing caffeine (see this blog Nov. 15, 2009), asking the companies to justify the safety of their products. But apparently the agency has not yet followed through with its promises to review the safety information requested from the companies and then to take appropriate action if it was not forthcoming.

One of the companies selling caffeine-and-alcohol drinks was in the news again last month after students at two universities ended up in emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning. The drinks in question, called Four Loko, contain 23.5 ounces of 12% alcohol laced with caffeine. Allegedly the caffeine overrides the natural sleepiness effect of alcohol, causing the user to underestimate how drunk he/she really is.

The company says that it is being unfairly singled out.

Some college students will abuse alcohol no matter what form it is in. But are packaged caffeine-and-alcohol drinks GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) or not? It should be up to the FDA to decide, and so far it hasn’t.

Meanwhile, states and municipalities are taking action. Last Thursday Michigan became the first state to ban alcohol-and-caffeine drinks. The city of Chicago is considering a similar ban.

For more on this subject, go to a previous blog post titled "Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages Under Scrutiny."

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