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AG McKenna: alcoholic energy drinks are a recipe for disaster

Harvey Field
Published:2009-11-16 Safety
AG McKenna: alcoholic energy drinks are a recipe for disaster    Print Snohomish Times    
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They have names like "Joose" and "Max Fury." According to state attorneys general, these super-caffeinated alcoholic concoctions may not be safe. And worse, theyre being marketed to young people.

Thats why for more than two years, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and other AGs have been sounding the alarm about alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs). Today theyre applauding the federal governments decision to look into the issue. "Alcohol plus caffeine equals a serious health threat, especially for young people," McKenna said.

"The jolt of caffeine or other stimulants masks the feeling of intoxication. Health professionals say that leads to more risk-taking behavior, traffic accidents, violence, sexual assault, and suicide." McKenna joined the chief legal officers of 18 other jurisdictions in applauding the Food and Drug Administrations recognition of the potential harm of alcoholic energy drinks.

The FDA announced today its requesting that manufacturers of AEDs support claims that the drinks are safe under FDA regulations. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a substance food additive is unsafe and unlawful unless its use has been approved by the FDA or if there is evidence, generally known and accepted by qualified experts, that its safe. "The increasing popularity of consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages by college students and reports of potential health and safety issues necessitates that we look seriously at the scientific evidence as soon as possible," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in a release.

State AGs have longstanding concerns about AEDs. In 2007, 30 attorneys general, including McKenna, urged the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to stop alcohol manufacturers from making misleading health-related statements when advertising alcoholic beverages combined with caffeine or other stimulants. In 2008, AG McKenna and 24 state AGs pressed MillerCoors Brewing to drop Sparks Red, an energy drink with boosted alcohol content.

The same year, several AGs launched investigations of MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, two major producers of AEDs. Each company eventually agreed to cease production of the stimulant-infused beverages altogether. However, other AED manufacturers have stepped in to fill the void with products packaged in larger volume containers (23.5 oz.) and containing a higher percentage of alcohol (up to 12%) than was in MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch products. On Sept. 25, the Attorneys General wrote to the Food and Drug Administration, urging them to examine whether the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages is considered safe under FDA regulations.

They included a letter from scientists and medical professionals who argue that adding caffeine and other stimulants to alcoholic beverages pose serious public health risks. The FDA has given the AED manufacturers 30 days to submit the requested information. "State AGs have been working on this for years," McKenna added. "Im gratified that today the federal government is taking action."

 




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