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FDA Cracks Down on Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks
Date:11/17/2010

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday told makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that their products are illegal.

In warning letters to the companies, the agency said the caffeine added to the malt beverages is an "unsafe food additive," and the companies risked further action, including seizure of their products.

"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," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the agency's principal deputy commissioner. "To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern."

The drinks -- marketed under such names as Four Loko, Joose, Lemon Lime Core Spiked, and Moonshot -- have become popular with young adults, and have left dozens of people sick or hospitalized. Several states have banned the drinks, which can have alcohol levels as high as 12 percent, according to federal officials.

FDA officials said the caffeine in the drinks can make it hard for consumers to gauge their level of intoxication. And peer-reviewed studies have suggested that consumption of the beverages can lead to "risky behaviors" and "life-threatening situations," the agency said.

The announcement comes amid a growing backlash against the so-called energy drinks -- sometimes called "blackout in a can" -- that blend caffeine and alcohol. Such beverages are becoming increasingly popular with college students and even children. The drinks are regularly consumed by 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

In a news release Thursday, the FDA said the products cited in the warning letters are "being marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FFDCA). Each w
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