The Food and Drug Administration has sent a letter to the makers of alcoholic energy drinks telling them that the caffeine in the beverages is an "unsafe food additive." Among the best-known Alco-Energy drinks is Four Loko, which is made in Latrobe by Chicago based Phusion Projects.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the mix of caffeine and alcohol can lead to what she calls "a state of wide-awake drunk." She says the evidence shows that the drinks have led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults. Experts think the caffeine could mask a feeling of intoxication, leading to risky behavior.
The companies have 15 days to respond to the letter and if they continue to make and market the product, it could be seized by the federal government. Just before the FDA issued its letter Phusion Projects announced that it was reformulating its products to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine. In a written statement today the company says, “Until all of the state approvals for the reformulated product are in place, it is impossible to know what the impact will be on production runs at the Latrobe plant. If we receive approval from the states in a timely manner, we’re hopeful that any economic impact will be minimal.” The company says it still believes a mix of alcohol and caffeine is safe, but that they're up against a "politically-charged regulatory environment."