Safety Advocates Say That Four Loko Needs Stricter Regulation

New Jersey readers are likely aware of an alcoholic beverage called Four Loko. The drink has been around for a few years and used to be made with both alcohol and caffeine. It gained notoriety as a dangerous product in 2010 after several incidents in which college students were hospitalized after drinking it, including some students here in New Jersey.

Health officials and critics of the drink say that alcohol and caffeine are dangerous when mixed together, and may make it more difficult for drinkers to self monitor their level of intoxication. Bowing to pressure from the FDA, the makers of Four Loko have removed the caffeine. But a wave of consumers says that this isn’t enough to make the product safe.

There are still concerns about the way in which the drink is both labeled and marketed. This fruit-flavored malt liquor beverage comes in brightly colored cans holding 23.5 ounces. Each of these large cans contains up to 12 percent alcohol.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and New Jersey business tax lawyers alleged that ads for Four Loko misrepresented the amount of alcohol in each can. The FTC says that rather than drinking the equivalent of one or two beers (as implied by ads), consumers are actually drinking the equivalent of four or five beers.

The FTC drafted a settlement with the product’s manufacturer last year that called for labeling changes on certain products, as well as changes to the can to make it re-sealable. This would hopefully take away any pressure to drink a whole can in a sitting.

After the settlement was proposed, the FTC asked for public comments. Hundreds of opposed consumer safety advocates and advocacy groups have since voiced concerns that the deal does not go far enough to regulate this dangerous product.

This amount of public feedback about proposed FTC actions is rare, which shows just how strongly consumers feel about the dangers of Four Loko. Hopefully, their concerns will be heeded when the proposed settlement comes to a vote.




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