Will the FDA Rule Against Alcoholic Energy Drinks?

For many, alcohol and caffeine go together like peanut butter and jelly.  But a recent FDA investigation into alcoholic energy drinks could make some producers change their minds about the combination.

Via the New York Times:

With new reports of young people falling ill or dying after drinking the potent blends of alcohol and caffeine, state and federal regulators have been pressured to address the matter. Several states have moved to ban the drinks on their own, and this weekend New York’s largest beer distributors agreed to stop delivering caffeinated alcoholic beverages to retailers by Dec. 10. Some state officials, meanwhile, have criticized the F.D.A. for not completing its review sooner.

“To be very blunt, there’s just no excuse for the delay in applying standards that clearly should bar this kind of witch’s brew,” said Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who as the state’s attorney general has led a campaign against the drinks.

At issue for the F.D.A. is whether adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages is “generally regarded as safe,” an agency designation that requires accepted scientific evidence.

The ruling would likely require warning letters to be sent to companies telling them their products are unsafe.

At the center of the investigation is whether caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, making people more likely both to drink more as well as engage in riskier behaviors while doing so under the assumption that they aren’t inebriated. 

“There’s a particular interaction that goes on in the brain when they are consumed simultaneously,” [Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien, a professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University] said. “The addition of the caffeine impairs the ability of the drinker to tell when they’re drunk. What is the level at which it becomes dangerous? We don’t know that, and until we can figure it out, the answer is that no level is safe.”

The question of safety has arisen after the recent deaths of multiple unrelated young adults that are being blamed on a caffinated alcoholic beverage called Four Loko.  But others note that caffeine and alcohol have been ingested together for decades without anyone writing warning letters to bars about the matter.

Researchers are concerned that caffeine counterbalances some of the effects of alcohol and may lead drinkers to believer they are less drunk then they are. That’s a valid point, yet the mixing of the two substances isn’t going away any time soon. While the pre-made mixtures will apparently now be banned, it’s unlikely Americans will stop drinking these find mixtures of caffeine and booze:

  • Rum and Coke
  • Vodka and Redbull
  • Irish Coffee
  • Espresso martinis
  • Shots followed by a Five Hour Energy chaser
  • Cafecito and Cisco

In fact, Americans so love combining alcohol and caffeine that is was only a matter of time until our capitalist system spurned out pre-mixed drinks featuring both substances. This is how the market of innovation works: find a demand and fill it.

Maybe Four Loko was just too great of a capitalist success for America. It delivered almost too much bang for its buck: the equivalent of about three or four beers and a Red Bull all for under $3.

The FDA is expected to rule on this at some point today.


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Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago

Ban :-0 thanx

SusanQ S.
Susan S8 years ago

Three Cheers for Marie W. !!!
People are going to kill themselves with the posion of their choice no matter how many bans or laws against the product.

And Good Luck getting the FDA off their asses to pass any ban or law of any kind .
IF in the event they should bestir themselves to even object to anything ----- WHO the hell is going to inforce it???????

We are being fed ,through the supermarkets, beef, pork and chicken that has been pumped full of hormones and antibotics along with lots of extra chemicals just for good measure.

The FDA wants to make sure that IF we don't contract cancer from the hormones we will develope diabetes from the chemicals and heart disease from the antibotics.

Between the FDA and the Pharmacuticle Companies we are ALL---, the walking dead.

So just eat what the hell you want that tastes good to you and don't worry about it. The FDA and PC have to meet their quota of bodies each year and there is not one damned thing "we citizens" can do about it.

John C.
Past Member 8 years ago

A cocaine espresso could be considered an energy drink, I suppose.

Pat J.
Pat J.8 years ago

21 or older ok. useing teens in this argument will be taken into consideration because they shouldn't drink period.

Pat J.
Pat J.8 years ago

People are going to have the option to consume alcohol and caffeine at anytime after the recall, if it happen, which it shouldn't. It's a hurdle for people who don't have control. I think consumers should have the right to do that to them selves. You might as well ban cigarettes while you at it. Bottomline, it a consumers right to drink this drink. They just need to know the side effects that can occur if they consume too much. Trust me people, there are people out there dieing from drinking alcohol because "they don't know when to stop". It's bringing in money/revenue.We live off of instant gratification and for those who don't delay their actions when indulging in this gratified drink are putting the burden on themselves. I drank this before. I'm 198lbs and i wouldn't drink any more than one in a sitting/party. FYI i'm not telling you who i really am. I just know if i stood in court for this i'd have the stronger conveyed message, sorry.


Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M8 years ago

These drinks should be banned because they are misleading as an energy drink!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons8 years ago

Its not going to solve the problem at all. People can add a caffeine tablet and do the same thing. Alcohol itself is a solvent and a poison that destroys livers and causes addictions among many people, but the fda hasn't banned that.

clara H.
Clara Hamill8 years ago

I say don't ban them because you can mix drinks anyway and I don't want the government banning something just because they think it's bad for me.

Jason W.
Jason W8 years ago

From my experience, they provide an awful feeling.. you can definitely feel the cheapness of a Four Loko. But as pointed out, mixed drinks containing alcohol and caffeine will continue to be made and consumed regardless of the FDA's ruling. Coke is mixed with liquor so often and casually that I bet most people ingesting the concoction don't even consider that caffeine is involved at all.. it sure as hell doesn't stop folks from having multiple drinks per night.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago

the energy drinks are bad enough without the alcohol.they should be banned.