Loco for Loko: Controversial Drink "Unsafe" According to FDA

By Katy Tur
|  Wednesday, Nov 17, 2010  |  Updated 10:19 PM EDT
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Local politician takes the <a title=Four Loko Challenge" />

Local politician takes the Four Loko Challenge

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The Feds are looking to can Four Loko's powerful mix.

After a steady stream of controversy and concerns over the safety of caffeinated alcoholic drinks, or alcoholic energy drinks, the FDA on Wednesday announced that it warned four companies about their “unsafe food additive" -- namely the addition of caffeine into alcoholic malt beverages and said that further action could be warranted including seizure of their products under federal law.

It was a move the White House and Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowsi agreed with.

Over the past month the drink Four4 Loko, a 24-ounce can containing 12 percent alcohol per volume and about as much caffeine as a large cup of coffee, has come under intense fire when dozens of college students were taken to the hospital after indulging. The drink has even been blamed for some deaths among college age students.

Last week, The New York State Liquor Authority banned the distribution of 4 Loko within New York State -- a move that came after as New York Senator Charles Schumer had been adamantly lobbying the FDA to take all such alcoholic energy drinks off the shelves, nationwide.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Phusion, the makers of Four Loko defended the safety of their product as it is, but conceded that they will remove all caffeine, gaurana, and taurine from the drink.

Meanwhile Brooklyn Assemblyman Feliz Ortiz has been working to get drinks like 4 Loko banned since it debuted late last year.

In addition to proposed New York legislation, Ortiz decided to put his words into action by drinking as much Four Loko as he could within one hour, while under the constant supervision of a doctor.

Ortiz hoped to show what that much alcohol and caffeine could do to one’s body if consumed like this, which he contends many younger drinkers are in the habit of doing.

In fact, numerous youtube.com videos bolster that claim, with 20-somethings chugging as much Four Loko as they can as fast as they can.

At a recent Four Loko party on the Lower East Side, NBCNewYork observed drinkers doing exactly that.

During the hour, Ortiz’s pulse jumped along with his blood pressure, but as the alcohol kicked in the Assemblyman’s blood pressure slowed.

About 60 minutes later and  two and a half cans in -- that’s 30 percent alcohol per volume and about three large cups of coffee worth of caffeine -- Ortiz was intoxicated. His pulse was up to 86 beats per minute and his blood pressure was 126 over 84.

At that point we have to stop filming when Ortiz begins vomiting.

The companies involved in the “effective ban” are:

• 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


Follow Katy on Twitter @katytur4ny

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