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Bottoms Down: Four Loko Banned

By Roberto Rivera
On December 14, 2010

In the past month there has been a significant amount of publicity about the Four Loko brand of alcoholic malt beverages.

Four Loko boasts a mixed concoction of caffeine, taurine, guarana, and alcohol (hence the Four brand name); but it's the mixture of caffeine and alcohol that has government officials and the FDA questioning the health risks the beverage imposes. One assumption to the mixing of the ingredients is that the effects of the caffeine might minimize the effect of the alcohol, thereby having someone who is intoxicated not be able to judge their impairment.

The City of Chicago has already banned the beverage and Illinois is hoping to follow suite, along with Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma which already have. Along with the alleged health risks, the Chicago based company, Drink Four Brewing Company, is also battling wrongful death lawsuits and is blamed as the primary reason for the death of one teen in Texas, and the suicide of a 20 year old man in Florida, whose family claimed was a result of him having drank Four Loko.

Whether or not it's right and might seem justified to take action on such a product. How is it that Four Loko is receiving so much attention as opposed to the regular beer or spirit beverage? Why hasn't Anheuser-Busch or Miller-Coors received any attention since the DUI rates don't seem to change much in the past ten years? Illinois's DUI fatalities from 2000 to 2005, which was when the company began, ranged from 43% - 46% in alcohol related deaths, and up to 2008 remained at about the same rate. There really hasn't been a significant increase in alcohol related fatalities since the introduction of Four Loco.   

    What is worrying officials though is that those who are frequently attracted to the beverage is the younger college crowd, and by fact of lawsuits that are awaiting the company, even teens. Four Loko comes in a 23.5 oz. can and holds either 6 to 12 percent alcohol by volume, depending on state law; which is said to be equivalent to five beers and one cup of Starbucks coffee. People are usually used to what's expected from drinking beer and liquor, but beverages like Four Loko have an unexpected aftereffect like sudden blackouts. Also add to the mix that the trend for DUIs in the State of Illinois tend to be the highest for those in the 21-24 age bracket, 2008 Statistic. This is probably what is worrying governing officials and the FDA.

If the FDA does decide that Four Loko and other beverages of the same kind are health hazards, than perhaps it should be taken off the market. The FDA has a job to do in guarding against health risks to the nation. One question that does come to mind is why the FDA is able to impose policies on Four Loko, if Four Loko being an alcoholic beverage, is regulated by the ATF? Nevertheless Four Loko has already claimed that it's going to remove the caffeine from its products.

Yet even with the loss of drinks like that of Four Loko, there really shouldn't be much to worry about. It's most likely not a sign of things to come like a second Prohibition era. Connoisseurs of the truly great drinks like whiskey, rum, gin, vodka and let's not forget tequila will always have those spirits to depend on.

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