State Liquor Authority orders Four Loko ban

Next month, cans of Four Loko will not be available in stores across New York state. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

The state has announced that it will stop the distribution of a controversial alcohol-caffeine fusion beverage and City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), who has been voicing concern over the drink, said it was a step in the right direction for the safety of New Yorkers.

The state Liquor Authority came to an agreement with Chicago-based corporation Phusion Products and New York beverage distributors Saturday night to stop selling Four Loko, the agency said. The distributors have stopped taking orders for the drink, which contains large amounts of alcohol and caffeine, and have been ordered to clear their shelves of the product by Dec. 10 as part of the agreement.

The drink has come under criticism from elected officials across the country because it has been linked to several cases of students who became sick at colleges and underage drinking.

“We have an obligation to keep products that are potentially hazardous off the shelves, and there is simply not enough research to show that these products are safe,” Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen said in a statement.

Phusion Products claims the 23.5-ounce cans, which come in a variety of fruit flavors, have 12 percent alcohol by volume — roughly the same amount of alcohol as wine — and as much caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee. It has maintained that the drink is safe to consume and it issues strict warnings to distributors and stores about the ingredients.

In a statement, the Phusion Products’ co-founder, Jaisen Freeman said he agreed with the Liquor Authority’s decision and said that as part of its agreement with the state it would increase education about alcoholic beverages.

“The only effective way to do that is with stricter enforcement of existing alcohol laws and more education and awareness. This is why the alcohol education component of this agreement was important to us,” he said.

The drink has been banned in Michigan and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating the drink for potential health hazards.

Sanders, who first called on the SLA to remove the drink a few weeks ago, said he was glad the beverage was coming off the shelves. He said the drink was being inappropriately marketed toward teenagers and some stores were selling Four Loko without checking the customers’ identifications.

“Any time you combine uppers and downers into a single beverage, you are doing severe damage to the body’s systems,” he said in a statement. “I congratulate the state Liquor Authority for their stand on the side of common sense and sanity and for moving to protect our young people from the rigors of this venomous drink.”

Sanders was also joined by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in calls to ban the drink. Last week the senator said that since Four Loko has not been properly vetted by the FDA, it should not be sold.

“The drinks are spreading like a plague across the country and you need to do everything you can to protect the children,” Schumer said in a press conference Nov. 10.

Matt Caputo contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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