Should the government ban Four Loko?
Thu, 01 Mar 2012 16:32:03 GMT —
The government has its eyes on a popular fruit-flavored, carbonated brew that's guzzled on college campuses across the country. It's known to some as "blackout in a can."
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking over a wave of complaints about Four Loko. Under review is the amount of alcohol in the drink and how it is marketed.
Four Loko gained national attention in 2010 when some college students were hospitalized in New Jersey and Washington State. The drink was a caffeine-alcohol mix, and some states even banned it because they were worried about the caffeine and its potential to mask how much alcohol one could safety consume.
The popular drinks were banned in Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma. In 2010, the makers of Four Loko stopped shipments to New York State.
Federal regulators say the drink contains up to 12 percent of alcohol and is really more like four to five beers, which shouldn't be consumed in one sitting.
Under a deal the agency brokered late last year with Phusion, the company that makes Four Loko, new labels would be required on its products with more alcohol than 2-1/2 regular beers, and they would have to state how much alcohol, compared with a regular beer, is in the drink. The can also would have to be redesigned so that it can be resealed and would not necessarily need to be downed in one sitting.
But many fear the deal doesn't go far enough, and some want the product banned altogether, something the FTC does not have the authority to do.
The American Medical Association and the Beer Institute are opposed to the regulations, saying it would be unprecedented to compare the alcohol content of one product with the alcohol content of another. "If I had a magic wand, this would be a smaller product with less alcohol," said Janet Evans, a senior staff attorney with the FTC. "But I do not have a wand. I operate within my agency's jurisdiction, and the FTC does not have the jurisdiction to ban this product or to force a company to limit its size or potency."
What the commission can do is regulate how alcohol is marketed to prevent deception about alcohol content.
Phusion said it could not comment on the pending settlement. The company has maintained that its packaging does not contain statements or graphics that are misleading or intended to attract underage drinkers.
A final decision from the FTC on the settlement - whether to approve it or change it - is expected in the next couple of months.
Have you ever tried Four Loko? Do you think there need to be stricter regulations placed on the product? Should it be banned altogether? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts below.
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Information from the Associated Press and NBC News used in this article.