FDA Issues Warning on Alcohol-Caffeine Combination Beverages

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The US Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters on Wednesday to four manufacturers of high-energy alcoholic beverages saying that the caffeine that is added is an “unsafe food additive”. The companies, one of which is Four Loko maker Phusion Projects, have 15 days to either defend their products as safe or take them off the market.

Caffeine, when added to an alcoholic beverage, can mask the consumer’s feeling of intoxication. This creates an effect of feeling more alert and less impaired, when in fact blood alcohol levels indicate otherwise.

Read: College Drinking Problems on the Rise

Marina Kushner, founder of the Caffeine Awareness Alliance, said “The alertness that caffeine provided can make people feel like they have sobered up and gives them incentive to do certain things they should not do when drunk. For example, this false sense of alertness and wakefulness will make someone feel that they are sober enough to drive.”

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The presence of both substances also affects the absorption and metabolism functions of the body, leading to longer lasting effects on the central nervous system. Caffeine and alcohol taken together can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.

Read: College Students at Risk During Alcohol-Related Blackouts

Four states have already issued their own ban on alcoholic energy drinks – Michigan, Washington, Utah and Oklahoma. Washington initiated the ban after several Central Washington University students were hospitalized in October following a binge on Four Loko, commonly called “Blackout in a Can.”

Earlier this week, anticipating the FDA’s decision, Phusion Projects announced that they will reformulate their drinks and remove the caffeine – a step the FDA has called “positive.”

The other companies receiving warning letters regarding alcohol-caffeine beverages were Charge Beverages Corp., New Century Brewing Co., and United Brands Company Inc.

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