FDA cracks down on caffeinated alcoholic drinks

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic drinks, Alcoholic beverage, Caffeine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has launched a crackdown on caffeinated alcoholic drinks following a scientific review of their safety.

The agency has warned four companies that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic drinks is an “unsafe food additive” and threatened product seizures if appropriate action is not taken. The companies concerned are Charge Beverages Corp, New Century Brewing Co., Phusion Projects and United Brands Company.

Warning letters are being sent out following a scientific review conducted by the FDA on the co-consumption of caffeine and alcohol.

Scientific review

The review, which itself comes after the FDA asked manufacturers last November to provide evidence on the safety of their products, raised serious concerns about caffeinated alcoholic drinks. In particular, it questioned how they affect the ability of drinkers to judge their level of intoxication.

The FDA said peer-reviewed studies suggest that caffeinated alcoholic drinks can lead people to take risks that may be hazardous or life threatening.

It has therefore concluded that the use of caffeine in the products made by the four companies mentioned is not ‘generally recognised as safe’ (GRAS).

“FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard,”​ said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner. “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”

Other products

This does not add up to an outright ban on caffeinated alcoholic drinks but it does set a precedent for other manufacturers looking to combine alcohol and caffeine.

The FDA said: “Other alcoholic beverages containing added caffeine may be subject to agency action in the future if the available scientific data and information indicate that the use of caffeine in those products is not GRAS.”

In the meantime, for the four companies that have received warning letters, they have 15 days to respond. If the FDA believes that a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) has continued it may then take enforcement action which could include product seizures or an injunction to halt production.

Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, has already announced that it will be removing caffeine from its alcoholic drinks. But in a statement released earlier this week, Phusion said it is taking the voluntary despite its belief that its products are safe.

Co-founder and managing partner Jaisen Freeman said: “We still believe that combining caffeine and alcohol is safe - if that weren't the case, Irish coffees and rum and colas would be under scrutiny as well. But we want our company to be known for cooperation and collaboration, not controversy.”

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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2 comments

FDA

Posted by Charli,

FDA what a joke. It amazes me that they waste their time and our tax dollars investigating things like caffinated beverages. But won't legalize medications in this country that are legal in other countries that are proven healers because God forbid the Doctors, Health facilities, Insurance companies might loose money. This is unbelieveable. I was a bartender for 25 years. If you have ever gotten intoxicated in a bar, lounge, pub, cantina, etc... and have been "CUT OFF" from being served any more intoxicating beverages what is the first thing they will offer you to drink? COFFEE which is caffine. Now I am not a rocket scientist but I think a caffiinated beverage contains the same thing as coffee. So isn't this somewhat redundant? FDA what a joke. Just Big Brother sticking his nose somewhere else that really doesn't need any regulation so that he won't and don't have to deal with the real issues. And we as a country just roll with whatever our government chooses to do. Then cry and moan about it after the fact. Sad, Sad, Sad, our country has become a herd doing whatever it's told never looking at the big picture never questioning authority. Too afraid of what we might see. Quit being scared. Stand up for what you believe, We as a people are loosing this country to Big Brother and without a fight. Sometimes I am ashamed of my fellow americans to afraid to fight for what is rightfully ours. So stick your heads back down that hole but don't cry when all of your rights are gone next time you come up for air GOD BLESS AMERICA

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double standards

Posted by Bob Smith,

it is absulutely ludicrous that our society would allow a governing body to make the determination that combined ingredients like these would cause a person to misjudge their intoxication level. When you drink the first thing to go is your judgement. This should mean that alcohol, caffeine,guarana,ginseng, mixed coctails that use cola and alcohol or irish coffee etc should be banned as well. If the people make the choice to use these then that is their business. We like in a society full of hypocrites where things like alcohol and tobacco that kill people are legal and yet we can not make our own conclusions of what we should and should not consume.

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