FDA Bans Four Loko
Goodbye, old friend. The brightly packaged, malt liquor/energy/caffeine concoction that came so quickly into our lives is making just as abrupt of an exit—well, change. The New Age version of a forty-ounce on steroids, Four Loko will cease to exist as we know it. Nationwide pressure from media, interest groups, and politicians to address concerns over its content began weeks ago, but nothing was official until yesterday’s Food & Drug Administration ban, prohibiting it from being sold in its current state under punishment of law and prosecution.
The drink, which comes in twelve different flavors and is affectionately referred to as “blackout in a can,” was banned in Michigan weeks ago. And on Wednesday, the state of Washington banned Four Loko and all similar caffeinated malt-liquor drinks. The move followed an incident in which dozens of Washington college students, who are believed to have consumed the controversial beverage, were hospitalized.
Four Loko has become wildly popular, attracting a sort of cultlike following. This past Thursday, protesters gathered in New York City’s Union Square for a makeshift vigil in memoriam of the embattled drink. With such popularity came criticism that the drink was being marketed to a young consumer base—the cans look more like an energy drink than an alcoholic beverage, brightly colored with neon and graffiti-type writing.
Four Loko manufacturer Phusion Projects, while defending their product, issued a statement before the FDA ruling, stating they would be reformulating their products to remove all caffeine, guarana and taurine nationwide. From now on, Phusion will produce only non-caffeinated versions of Four Loko.
Although drinking a Four Loko is nearly the equivalent of drinking five beers and four cups of coffee, the FDA did not elaborate on how dangerous the beverage is in its press release. But it said caffeine can mask “some of the sensory cues” drinkers rely on to determine their level of intoxication.
Phusion Projects, which seems to be cooperating with the FDA, has fifteen days to respond and/or comply before the U.S. Marshall’s start seizing property—yup, the boys in black, propelling from choppers, with the metal battering ram and tear-gas grenades. So while Four Loko will most likely remain on the shelves at your local bodega, it won’t be the same Four Loko you once knew. Time to pop that forty and pour a bit to the ground in memory of Four Loko. R.I.P. homey.