FDA criticized for banning alcoholic energy drinks

  • Date: November 29, 2010
  • Source: Admin
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Health professionals and lawmakers have welcomed FDA’s declaration that caffeine is an illegal and unsafe additive to manufactured alcoholic beverages. But critics see in the declaration an infringement of consumer rights. 
The FDA has warned four companies, the Four Loko maker Phusion Projects being one of them. The warning was preceded by a year-long review by FDA. The results of the review did not support the view that addition of caffeine to alcoholic beverages is safe. Within fifteen days, the companies have to remove the caffeine from their products or withdraw the products from store shelves. 
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages were first marketed about eight years ago. In the case of two leading manufacturers, sales rose 67 times between 2002 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Did the FDA over-react?
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit group said the government had gone too far. Gregory Conko, a senior fellow at the institute admitted that drinking caffeine with alcoholic beverages could mask the effects of intoxication. But if people could responsibly drink caffeine and alcohol together in the form of rum-and-cola and other mixed drinks, they could as well consume the manufactured version of the same drinks. 
However, according to David Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission, since manufactured drinks are cheap and attractively packaged, youngsters fall for them. The caffeine could mask their sense of intoxication and they may not realize how drunk they are. 
According to Dr Margaret Hamburg, FDA Commissioner, increased hospitalizations from alcohol poisoning, auto accidents and sexual assaults have been ascribed to Four Loko. 
What the various studies say
Before prohibiting the addition of caffeine to manufactured alcoholic drinks, FDA studied scientific literature to ascertain the effects of the two substances together, which Conko dismisses. According to him,  FDA’s findings were based on mixed drinks and not manufactured drinks - a slightly different product!
According to a study published in the April edition of the journal Addictive Behaviors people who drank alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and four times more likely to try to drive than bar patrons who had drinks with no caffeine. 
Another study published this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research associated high consumption of energy drinks with alcohol dependence and heavy drinking. People who drank alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to binge-drink than those who did not mix the two substances together, according to the CDC. 
According to Aaron White, a health scientist administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and quoted by MyHealthNewsDaily, it is difficult to say whether the drinks lead people to engage in risky behavior or if risk-takers gravitate towards the drinks. Whatever the reason, a different pattern of behavior and consequences are noticeable in people who consume energy drinks with alcohol than people who drink only alcohol. 


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