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New York State Seals the Fate of Four Loko Alcoholic Energy Drinks

New York is the latest state to jump on the alcoholic energy drinks ban-wagon. On Sunday, November 14, 2010, New York Governor David Paterson and Chairman of the State Liquor Authority Dennis Rosen announced a voluntary agreement with Phusion Products, the makers of Four Loko, to stop shipment of caffeinated alcoholic beverages to New York by Friday, November 19, 2010. Additionally, the largest beer distributors in New York State agreed to stop selling malt beverages containing caffeine and other stimulants. Those distributors have until December 10, 2010 to sell off the remainder of their in-state inventory. The voluntary agreement effectively bans the products from New York State. In addition, Phusion Products agreed to fund educational alcohol awareness programs concerning binge drinking. The agreement comes after NYPD sting operations revealed sales of Four Loko products to minors by numerous stores in the Bronx area.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, New York Senator Charles Schumer went further, indicating that the Food and Drug Administration was expected to release findings that caffeine is an unsafe food additive for alcoholic drinks. Were such findings made, the Federal Trade Commission would send letters to manufacturers of such beverages warning that marketing such products could be illegal. The FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey did not confirm whether or not such findings were expected or when any findings on the matter would be released.

Precluding the need for any such findings, however, Phusion Products announced that same day, via their website, that it would remove caffeine, guarana and taurine from Four Loko. Phusion Products maintains that their products as originally formulated were safe; however, the company felt changes were necessary due to the current regulatory environment. Phusion Products isn’t the first company to remove ingredients from an alcoholic energy drink in response to regulatory pressure. In 2008, MillerCoors announced it would remove caffeine, guarana, ginseng, and taurine from its Sparks beverages after voluntary negotiations with various state attorney generals. Anheuser-Busch InBev underwent a similar reformulation process with its Tilt beverages in 2008.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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