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Terry Goddard Applauds FDA’s Letters to Alcoholic Energy Drink Manufacturers Stating That Their Products Are Unsafe and Adulterated under Federal Law

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- November 17, 2010) - Attorney General Terry Goddard commended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sending warning letters today to four manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs). The letters assert that the caffeine in their alcoholic beverages, including popular brands Four Loko and Joose, are “unsafe food additives,” making these products adulterated under federal law.  

Attorney General Goddard also applauds the federal Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau for its announcement that it will require distributors and retailers to stop selling the alcohol energy drinks identified as unsafe by the FDA. 

For the past several years, Goddard has issued warnings about the potential danger of alcohol energy drinks. Some are packaged in 23.5-ounce cans resembling energy drinks with fruit flavors like fruit punch, lemonade and watermelon. Some AEDs, such as Four Loko, contain the alcohol equivalent of four to five beers and the caffeine equivalent of four to five colas or one-and-a-half to two cups of coffee in just one can. 

During the past year, medical and public health research have continued to confirm the dangers presented by these drinks, particularly among young people with whom these beverages are most popular.  

“Today’s action represents a significant and necessary step forward in removing these dangerous products from the market,” Attorney General Goddard said.  “By trading on the popularity of non-alcoholic energy drinks, AEDs attract young people who wrongly believe that the caffeine will offset the intoxicating effects of the alcohol. I applaud the FDA’s warning letters, which reject the manufacturers’ unfounded claims that these products are safe.”

Unfortunately, with increased consumption of these beverages among teens and college students, reports of alcohol poisoning, serious injury including sexual assault, and hospitalizations have become all too common. 

“Over the past several months, we have heard about far too many incidents that have resulted in serious violence, injury or even death associated with consuming AEDs,” Goddard said.

A recent incident in Mesa involving an underage drinker provides another example of the danger of these drinks.

In 2008, Attorney General Goddard, along with other Attorneys General throughout the country, initiated investigations of the two leading manufacturers of AEDs at that time: MillerCoors Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.  The investigations concluded with the companies agreeing to cease production of caffeinated alcoholic beverages altogether. 

However, smaller AED manufacturers introduced products packaged in larger containers (up to 23.5 ounces) containing a higher percentage of alcohol (up to 12 percent alcohol by volume).   FDA’s warning letters require the manufacturers to take prompt action to correct their violations of federal law and advise that failure to do so may result in enforcement action.

Goddard will be working with state and local officials to determine the further steps necessary to ensure prompt the removal of these dangerous products from the marketplace and to help educate young people about the dangers of self-mixed as well as pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks.

For more information, contact Janey Pearl at (602) 542-8019.