New York: US regulators warned makers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks that their products are unsafe and violate federal laws, following a public outcry and several state bans.
The US Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters on Wednesday to four firms -- Phusion Projects LLC, United Brands Co, New Century Brewing Co and Charge Beverages -- charging that seven of their drinks combining alcohol and caffeine were unsafe.
"FDA has found reason for concern that a number of caffeinated alcoholic beverage products do not meet the legal standard for safety," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "As a result the agency is moving forward on behalf of public health."
The Federal Trade Commission also warned the manufacturers that their marketing may be deceptive or unfair.
"Consumers might mistakenly assume that these beverages are safe because they are widely sold," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC`s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Sweetened drinks with high levels of alcohol and caffeine have grabbed headlines across the country in recent weeks after several incidents involving hospitalization after their consumption. In many cases, the drinkers were underage.
The drinks have already been banned in several states including Washington and Michigan.
Four Loko, one of the most popular of the drinks, comes in fruity flavors and brightly colored cans, similar to nonalcoholic energy drinks, popular with teenagers and young adults. It is 12 percent alcohol, meaning that one 23.5-ounce can is comparable to drinking four or five beers plus a dose of added caffeine, taurine and guarana.
Health experts say mixing alcohol and caffeine is dangerous because the stimulant masks the effects of the alcohol, letting people drink long after they would have otherwise stopped.
FDA`s Hamburg said the combined consumption of high levels of caffeine and alcohol led to a state of "wide-awake drunk" and has been linked to alcohol poisoning, automobile accidents and assault.