Is the FDA ban on caffeinated alcohol drink Loko?

The recent uproar in the United States concerning the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) scans and “pat down” procedures may have overshadowed a potentially more egregious infringement upon Americans’ personal liberties.

At the prompting of the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) 12 states, including New York, have banned the beverage Four Loko. The website describes Four Loko as a mixture containing four major ingredients: caffeine, taurine, guarna, and alcohol. Some consumers describe its mixture as “black out in a can.”

Four Loko comes in a 23.5 ounce can and contains 6-12% alcohol by volume (depending on the state). It has roughly the same alcohol content as wine (and some craft beers) and the same amount of caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee. It costs, on average, $2.50 a can.

The debate over the ban of the popular college drink has drawn out the usual suspects in the war on regulation. Parent groups, substance abuse agencies, colleges, universities and the like have all condemned the drink as the devil incarnate. On the contrary, libertarian groups and free market ideologues have criticized the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) ban, calling it just an example of America becoming a “welfare” (or “nanny”) state.

Proponents of the ban point to the growing number of accidents and deaths caused by underage individuals while under the influence of the intoxicating cocktail. Since you must be legal drinking age to purchase Four Loko, dissenters believe the focus should be on those putting the drink in the hands of the underage drinker.

Statistics, studies, and popular opinion weigh in heavy favor of the ban, at least as it concerns whether Four Loko is dangerous. Critics, however, argue the issue is more pervasive than than simply whether to ban a caffeinated alcoholic beverage. They see this as a foreshadowing of things to come; namely excise taxes on common household products, similar to the caffeine tax employed in Canada and Australia.

So, is this simply a precautionary measure taken by the FDA in response to a national crisis? Or is the United States headed toward a more socialistic “welfare” type state, like that of Norway and Sweden, where regulation is not only common, but well received.

One comment

  1. You can’t have your cake and eat it too…

    I don’t believe the ongoing debate is about Four Loko or about nationalized health care or about bank bailouts. The debate is about partisanship. All these debates have a political undertone. People are not angry with the FDA because they are banning an alcoholic/caffeinated drink. They are angry that the government is telling them what they can and cannot do, drink, eat, etc. We establish agencies like the FDA to protect the public, not to deprive people of their freedoms as many individuals against the ban would propose. The dichotomy is apparent; when the Fed is providing support or helping out citizens, even when such policies may have a socialistic edge, nobody complains. But when they Fed does something that people interpret as a deprivation, they go four loko on the government. I know its your birthday, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

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