Thursday, November 18, 2010

Entry 110: The FDA Drives Me Loko!

Today I'm getting on my stump to defend Four Loko.  More importantly, I'm here to call out the FDA for bureaucratic shenanigannery, hypocrisy, and poor logic.

Four Loko is a brand of flavored, caffeinated beer.  It comes in tall cans with about the same amount of caffeine that's in a cup of coffee and a high alcohol content.  It also tastes like horse piss.
Story: In Nov. '09 the FDA heard reports that people were having fun drinking Four Loko, and promptly issued a warning letter to the maker of Four Loko (Phusion Projects) warning them that caffeine and alcohol
mixed was dangerous and not approved by the FDA.  Phusion sent a response back in June of '10 to the FDA while 4 states individually banned the drink. Now, the FDA sent a warning notice to Phusion again saying that they had not proved their product to be safe and would be subject to penalties and enforcements under [code section sub-heading paragraph blah blah blah].  Four Loko is caving and discontinuing their product.


The FDA cites Phusion for not proving that FL is "generally regarded as safe (GRAS)." They also say, and I quote, that "a food additive is unsafe unless a regulation is in effect that prescribes the conditions under which the additive may be safely used..."  If you read that as "everything is banned until we say otherwise" you're on the right track.

They go on to say that "safe" is defined as "reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use." [What, exactly, is NOT harmful about trans-fats, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.?]

3 safety concerns the FDA cites:

"Reports in the scientific literature have described behavioral effects that may occur in young adults when energy drinks are consumed along with alcoholic beverages" [I think alcohol by itself pretty much covers this one]

"Studies suggest that the combined ingestion of caffeine and alcohol may lead to hazardous and life-threatening situations because caffeine counteracts some, but not all, of alcohol's adverse effects. In one study, a mixture of an energy drink and alcohol reduced subjects' subjective perception of intoxication but did not improve diminished motor coordination or slower visual reaction times using objective measures" [So?]

"Because caffeine alters the perception of alcohol intoxication, the consumption of pre-mixed products containing added caffeine and alcohol may result in higher amounts of alcohol consumed per drinking occasion, a situation that is particularly dangerous for naive drinkers" [So?]

Reading through the entire letter will give you some idea of how this system is set up with so many regulations and crap that they can basically approve or deny any product they want and create some sort of justification for their cowardice.  I call it cowardice because they (Joann Givens) don't have the cajones to come out and say: 

"Look, this shit will f8ck you up way faster than you realize.  Young adults are too dumb to behave themselves. Even if 99% of people were to safely use this, I don't want to allow the remaining 1% to get even more hammered than they're probably already going to get and go crash cars and puke their guts out."  
That to me is at least a sound opinion.  I can disagree, but it's honest.

So you can't package alcohol and caffeine together, but you can mix Grey goose and red bull or Captain and Coke.  It's like toys for children at Christmas; you can buy the toy and you can buy the battery, but the
batteries can't be included. Or, to provide a more apt (and damaging) analogy, is it similar to how you can't buy a loaded gun?

And when you start down a road of banning things that have "behavioral effects" or that people are presumed to be too dumb to handle responsibly, where does it end?

It doesn't.  That's why I take up issues such as this.  I hate Four Loko- it literally tastes like the fruity urine of the dragon that Satan rode to the North Pole to stab Rudolph in the eye with his pitchfork. But I defend the right for people to have Four Loko if they want.  I defend the right of people to choose whether to wear a helmet, or use drugs, or smoke cigarettes in their own house. I don't presume to direct people on what they should do, or abdicate responsibility to defend those who can't defend themselves from gross harm and negligence, I only fight for the responsibility of personal welfare to sit squarely on the shoulders of the individual rather than an impersonal and distant government.

You know, shit like this is going to get me recruited in the Tea Party. Crap.

What I ask of you is to see how easy it is for our rights to be attacked when they are broken up piecemeal. When you see an issue come up and you have no dog in the race, realize that maybe the next issue under attack will be one you do care about and you'll wish you had idealistic people who will rally to your flag.  That's how I find myself here today, defending the shittiest beer ever made on the Earth.

Caleb "seriously don't drink that shit" Shreves


  1. PS here is the link to the letter:

  2. A good satire of the whole FDA Four Loko ban can be found here

    Reading this, I think you'd dig it

  3. I tasted it once. Not a fan. Love the alcohol content, though. This girl at my job is obsessed with it though. She's also 18 & therefore her opinion on anything doesn't count.

  4. Thanks BW! Good site!

    Good call, Andrew. I like the blanket generalization.

  5. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at Vaporfi, and I think its the best kit.