FDA Warns Makers Of Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Earlier today, there was speculation that the FDA might issue a declaration that effectively bans alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine and other stimulants. While the agency opted to not go to such lengths, it did announce that caffeine added to malt liquor qualifies as an “unsafe food additive” and sent warning letters to the makers of seven different drinks, giving them 15 days to come up with a plan for remedying the violation.

Letters were sent to the following four companies, which are responsible for a total of seven stimulant/booze combos:
• Charge Beverages Corp.: Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked
• New Century Brewing Co., LLC: Moonshot
• Phusion Projects, LLC (doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.): Four Loko
• United Brands Company Inc.: Joose and Max

Says an FDA official:

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. To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.

The companies now have 15 days to respond in writing to the FDA to detail the “specific steps that will be taken to remedy the violation and prevent its recurrence.”

If any of these companies disagree and believe they are not in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA asks them to respond with supporting material for their position.

Should any of the warned companies continue to operate in violation of the FFDCA, the agency may “pursue an enforcement action that could include seizure of the products or an injunction to prevent the firm from continuing to produce the product until the violation has been corrected.”

Yesterday, the makers of the most controversial of these drinks, Four Loko, announced that it would be altering its recipe to remove caffeine from the beverages, making them just another flavored malt liquor.

Says the FDA about this decision:

FDA views this announcement as a positive step. FDA has not yet heard officially from the company about this announcement, including how quickly it will remove present product from circulation and how quickly it will reformulate its product.

The agency says that they did not issue warnings to companies that make beverages which “contain caffeine as a natural constituent of one or more of their ingredients, such as a coffee flavoring.”

As you can see from our earlier post on this topic, an overwhelming number of poll respondents disagree with any sort of legislation that would ban or outlaw caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

Info from the FDA:
FDA Warning Letters issued to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages
Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages
Serious Concerns Over Alcoholic Beverages with Added Caffeine


Edit Your Comment

  1. PhineasNanerpuss says:

    Why are people focusing on the Caffeine and not the underlying culture of binge drinking?

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      b/c knee-jerk reactions and superficial remedies make it appear as though something is being done when in reality nothing is being done, sort of like beverage security theater

    • cheri0627 says:

      The thing is, I don’t think this necessarily constitutes binge drinking. Two of these, which I don’t consider binge drinking, can cause a person to have blackouts.

      • Southern says:

        So can two 24-oz bottles of Mad Dog 20/20, which has even HIGHER alcohol content (than these energy drinks) and can be bought at most corner grocery/convenience stores.

    • Big Cheese Make Hair Go Boom says:

      Binge drinking is a problem amongst the youth of the US, I agree. I think the FDA/media is focusing on this because the average person could not tell you how much caffeine in one sitting is to much. If I said I was going to eat two large pizzas, you would be concerned, if I said I was going to down a half bottle of rum, you would be concerned. If I told you that I was going to drink four drinks with 1000 micrograms of caffeine in each, you probably would have no point of reference on whether or not that is a good or bad thing.

      I truly do not think that most people could answer the question of whether or not drinking 4000 micrograms of caffeine in one sitting is a good or bad thing.

      I do not agree with the potential regulation that will inevitably come with this. But I do see a need to educate the public on what a “healthy daily dose” of caffeine is and isn’t.

      • Alvis says:

        You measure caffiene on the milligram scale. It’s not LSD.

      • Jimmy60 says:

        Well I went and checked because I had no idea. I’m a fairly heavy coffee drinker and it would take me about a week at my regular rate of consumption to get 4000 mg of caffeine. Some other quick research would indicate that 4000 mg could very well be a fatal dose.

        What I can’t seem to find out is the actual caffeine content of these products. That’s a problem.

      • EWU_Student says:

        mg(milligrams) =/= micrograms

        Eight oz. of drip coffee has around 120 milligrams, 120,000 micrograms.

        So yes, it would be entirely reasonable to consume 4,000 (4 milligrams) micrograms of caffeine in a sitting, since decaf coffee has 3-4 milligrams of caffeine per eight oz. serving.

        /end biologist rant

    • Griking says:

      Normally a person would drink a bunch and eventually get tired and pass out. The caffeine keeps you up and lets you drink even more.

  2. TuxthePenguin says:

    Thank you, Mommy Government.

    • Poisson Process says:

      You know their target market is high school kids. Adults don’t drink this crap.

      • Preyfar says:

        Man, they really need to come up with a way to keep this crap out of the hands of kids then. Seriously. Maybe an age limit…

        The thought that kids are running around chugging Four Lokos and buying them at 7/11 is appalling. We need some way to control alcohol consumption.

        • Akuma Matata says:

          the drinks are alcoholic – there’s already an age limit on them

          • Preyfar says:

            Sorry. Forgot to deploy my tags.

            But that’s what bothers me about this, y’know? They *are* alcoholic, and are controlled substances. Why then are all the arguments about high school kids apparently mass chugging these things? That’s the real problem. Besides, ban these, but anybody can still walk in and get Red Bull. Add vodka… poof!

            If kids can get a hold of booze then they can make these drinks on their own. Maybe it’s not in a can, but…

            • Akuma Matata says:

              That’s what I think is so absurd about all this… Vodka and Red Bull or Jager Bombs are more or less the same thing.

              What I find funny is that these drinks are actually telling you what’s in them (per FDA requirements), vs a vodka and red bull which you’re having to guess.

        • Poisson Process says:

          Your intense use of sarcasm is awe inspiring. However, kids drink alcohol all the time. It isn’t hard to get when you’re in high school if you know a few people. Cover up the taste of alcohol with tons of sugar, add some caffeine and taurine, and the problem of underage drinking is much worse.

      • bigTrue says:

        bullshit. I think they taste like ass, but if I don’t drink half a can of one of these or some sort of Monster/Vodka combo, I’m asleep after two beers. These make it very easy to stop by a liquor store and pick up a six pack and a can of four loco (used to be sparx, but they killed the energy from that earlier) if I’m heading to a bonfire or something and don’t want to mix drinks all night.

        I’m 32, by the way.

        Just because some people are too dumb to realize that 12% booziness is really fucking high and get blackout drunk shouldn’t stop me from using the same things. Stop basing the laws/regulations on the idiots of the world and start basing them on people who can handle themselves.

  3. OnePumpChump says:

    In related news, you can buy pure caffeine on the internet.

  4. aloria says:

    They can have my Irish coffee when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    • Joe User says:

      How about a Rum and Coke? Seriously, this is pretty high on the stupid list.

    • outlulz says:

      Does an Irish Coffee have as much alcohol and caffeine as a Four Loko? Because that would be a much classier alternative to drinking a Four Loko.

      • Paul Schuster says:

        For a back of the napkin answer, one Irish coffee has similar caffeine and a little more than a quarter of the alcohol (.8oz vs 2.88oz)

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      They can have my rum and coke when they pry it from my quivering uncoordinated hands.

  5. Big Cheese Make Hair Go Boom says:

    And yet, nothing is stopping me from going to Fridays (or any bar for that matter) and ordering an Irish Coffee, Jager Bomb or Vodka Redbull…putting aside the fact that this would be a completely unenforceable law.

    This is knee-jerk political activism at its worst…a witch hunt if you will on the latest ZOMFGLOLWTFBBQ!!!!LETS PROTECT THE CHILDREN!!!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I was going to say, this doesn’t prevent people from mixing the two together – it just eliminates the convenience of buying one drink instead of two to mix together.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        I’d love to see drinks in that Draino foam gel container. It has “part A” in one side of the container, “part B” in the other, and they’re separated by a plastic wall. When you unscrew the cap and pour it out, at that magic moment they mix.

  6. Macgyver says:

    If the store clerks sell anything with alcohol to anyone under 21, it’s their fault not anyone else’s, the store should be the one who get fined, not the manufacture.
    These drinks are only unsafe if you don’t know when enough is enough.

    • tdogg241 says:

      But there’s the rub. The caffeine serves to suppress the effects of the alcohol, so you don’t really have a very good idea of how much alcohol is in your system. I’m not in favor of an outright ban or anything, but I do think establishing a limit on how much caffeine can be in a pre-mixed alcoholic beverage is something worth considering.

  7. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    if only there was another way for college aged people to get blackout drunk by mixing some sort of alcohol and caffeine……oh wait

  8. Bladerunner says:

    Unsafe food additive? So then Jack and Coke is out, as is Irish Coffee. Ooooh, those are okay because they have it in there “naturally”? This is total bullshit. The FDA is digging their own grave here…there’s not way they can enforce this successfully.

  9. Speak says:

    What about Coke, Pepsi, Vault, Mt. Dew and other caffeinated sodas? They added caffeine to my sugar water, and a malt beverage is just Fermented Sugar Water. Therefore no soda with caffeine added is legal either, only ones that have natural caffeine in the ingredients. Coffee & Tea would of course be legal since the beans / leaves have natural caffeine.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      But it’s DANGEROUS, doesn’t matter if it’s natural. Caffeine should be a Schedule I drug.

  10. chaesar says:

    I make my own alcoholic energy drinks at home

    seriously, I do

  11. ALP5050 says:

    The FDA and the government needs to stay in D.C. and out of my fridge!

  12. Blueskylaw says:

    “giving them 15 days to come up with a plan for remedying the violation.”

    We will rename caffeine to read “natural stimulant”

    Problem Solved

  13. Larraque eats babies says:


    Not that Bud Extra was a good drink but that was 2008 and it was a ‘big guy’. Do these smaller brewers stand a chance?

  14. Big Cheese Make Hair Go Boom says:

    Also, if you want to get realllly conspiracy theorist here…you can make the outlandish claim that the gov’t does not want the poor, inner city, ghetto folk, trailer dwelling, white trash, impoverished citizens to have access to inexpensive booze. Just another example of the man keeping us down!

  15. PBallRaven says:

    The nanny state strikes again!

  16. robocop is bleeding says:

    Oh, poor Moonshot. After seeing Beer Wars (http://beerwarsmovie.com/) and knowing the distributor from various Boston-area brew fests, that’s pretty much the final nail in a long moldering coffin.

  17. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    But but but… a spoonful of caffeine helps the medicine go down!

  18. ElBobulo says:

    They’ll just go back to red bull and vodka… Banning these won’t change a thing.

  19. Poisson Process says:

    I think the FDA is right on. Mixing stimulants and depressants are really bad for your body, especially your heart. I understand that people don’t want the government telling them what they can and can’t drink. But, that isn’t an issue here. The government has the authority and the obligation to stop a company from selling a product that, when used as directed, has serious health consequences which outweigh the benefits. If you insist on mixing stimulants and depressants, fine, the government can’t (and shouldn’t) stop you from mixing redbull and vodka at home.

    • Unclaoshi says:

      What about smoking because I believe that nicotine acts as both a stimulant and a depressant so mix that with some alcohol and antidepressants and the world is going to end just as fast as premixed drinks as this. Also does that mean bars can no longer mix them and serve them?

    • Skeetz says:

      The continued sale of cigarettes invalidates your statement. That’s just one product. There’s plenty more.

      • Poisson Process says:

        Invalidates? As in, makes it false? I stated a personal belief about what government is and is not obligated to do, in my opinion. I wish my opinion was applied to cigarettes. Then any adult could grow, process and possess tobacco, but Phillip-Morris couldn’t make money off selling it.

    • ElBobulo says:

      “The government has the authority and the obligation to stop a company from selling a product that, when used as directed, has serious health consequences which outweigh the benefits”. And who determines if the benefits are outweighed? In your world, Big Government of course. I’ll take my freedom straight up, thank you very much.

      • Poisson Process says:

        I understand the small government argument. There are hundreds of examples of situations where government interference is harmful. However, it isn’t always right.

        Take seat belts for example. There is no defensible argument to support not wearing a seat belt. Not wearing a seat belt isn’t a form a free speech. Not wearing a seat belt will not protect you from tyranny or lower your taxes. The science is clear. Seat belts save lives and reduce health care expenses for everyone. It follows that government is not overextending its mandate by forcing people to wear seat belts.

        The philosophy that government can do no good is wrong.

    • Kavatar says:

      My thoughts exactly. I don’t know why more people don’t understand that the point of this is not to prevent people from mixing caffeine and alcohol.

  20. Groanan says:

    They want to make me chase my alcohol with soda separately? FINE.
    They just better not infringe on my ability to blend a tub of chocolate ice cream with a bottle of baileys, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream.

  21. carlathecommander says:

    Gosh this is making me want to try Four Loko even more!

    • Jesse says:

      Nothing like controversy being an unintended advertising campaign. I had not heard of Four Loko either until ABC News did a report on its dangers a few weeks back.

    • crunchberries says:

      I don’t know if you’re serious or not, but I actually bought a Four Loko today just to see what all the fuss was about. Haven’t tried it yet, though.

  22. Vanilla5 says:

    No letter to Miller for Sparks?

    • Jesse says:

      I believe SABMiller took caffeine out of Sparks a couple years ago.

      • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

        You would be correct. Miller took all of the “energy” ingredients out of Sparks and AB did the same to Tilt. I find it funny that people still drink sparks to “keep them awake”. All it is now is flavored beer.

  23. sam08 says:

    I have also been a habitual drinker of these energy drinks. It really does pump up my energy. But while it helps it also has a lot of side effects to the body. It contains a lot of caffeine and sugar and too much of them isn’t good for health. So I’m staying away from them now. :)

    choosehottubsdirect , steve barbarich

  24. soj4life says:

    No one is going to be chugging moonshot, it costs too much and taste like a real beer.

    Four loko was a cheap way to get really drunk, really quickly.

  25. jaredwilliams says:

    That poor lady from moonshot can’t catch a break man. She’s been doing it WAY longer than anyone else. She started that idea and got robbed left and right and lost her whole life savings plugging this brand. She actually started Boston Beer Works with Jim Koch and moved on to doing her own thing. Bad move.

  26. Mr.Grieves says:

    This is so ridiculous.

    Coffee and an irish cream (Carolans, baileys, etc.) anyone? Hell some people just add whiskey.

    Jager bombs (Jagermeister + red bull)??

    There are tons of drinks out there, and plenty of combinations with caffiene. But pre-mixed drinks are going to get banned? If people want to do this still they can just drop vodka in a regular rockstar, and voila! This ban just seems rather pointless.

  27. outkastz says:

    Guess its time for me to stock up and buy a couple cases. And by couple, I mean however much the local gas station has left :-(