FDA Crazy for Pulling Four Loko

December 3, 2010 Opinion

College students across the nation were outraged when Phusion Projects decided to remove caffeine from their popular drink product Four Loko. This change was a response from the company who received threats from the Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 17 that their product would be pulled from shelves across America. The news made college students crazy and some immediately set out to stock up like they were preparing for Y2K.

One unnamed Rollins alumnus went out and bought $80 worth of the drink in an attempt to savor the flavor of the Four Loko products he had gotten used to enjoying since its release in 2006. Another student, a senior from Dartmouth, reportedly drove across the New Hampshire border and loaded up his car with 88 cans of the stuff fearing that he would never again be able to imbibe his favorite alcoholic beverage in its true form.

So why is it that these students are taking such drastic measures to stock up on this caffeinated drink? Part of the reason lies in the convenience of the drink. First of all, there is up to 12 percent alcohol in just one of the cans, so you do not get bloated like you would if you were just drinking light beer.

The name Four Loko stems from the four main ingredients: caffeine, taurine, guarana, and alcohol. The FDA has asserted that mixing caffeine and alcohol in the same drink is too dangerous and has caused some recent alcohol related deaths nationwide.

Caffeine is said to mask certain effects of the alcohol, making it harder for students to realize how drunk they are getting by making them feel more alert. Paul Bennet ‘11 commented on the drink, saying, “I don’t know if it should have gotten banned, but I don’t like the feeling I get after drinking it. It’s like you are drunk but super anxious.”

But college students have been ignoring the symptoms of getting drunk even before Four Loko got big. It is not like we keep tallies of other alcoholic drinks that send people to the hospital.

No one is blaming companies like Absolut for providing vodka, which is anywhere from 30 to 50 percent alcohol, and companies like Redbull are not being blamed for providing energy drinks that contain extremely high amounts of caffeine and taurine. Yet at any hip bar or club, one of the most popular drinks served is a vodka Redbull. Just because Four Loko may get banned or altered due to legal regulations, students are not going to stop consuming caffeine with alcohol.

Jimmy Colston ‘11 commented on why some college students are angry about the drink changing. “I think people are upset over Four Loko being banned just as people would be upset over cigarettes being banned… It’s your own body and you should be able to choose what you put into it whether it is good or bad,” he said. Cigarettes have led to many more deaths than Four Loko and yet they are still sold in the same convenience stores where the drink used to be sold.

It is not the company’s fault these deaths are occurring. Phusion Projects has done everything to comply with regulatory standards, notably removing the products from New York upon the governor’s request as well as funding alcohol awareness programs in various colleges nationwide.

It seems the drink received so much bad publicity because it is new. The FDA, yet again, felt the need to get involved due to all the media attention.

The reason the drink received so much flak was rooted in stupidity on the part of some of America’s brightest people who could not display self control. If the issue was purely the mixture of ingredients in the can, bars nationwide should be prevented from mixing and serving similar drinks.

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