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Brewers Say Alcoholic Energy Drinks Are Safe – FDA Says, “Prove It”

posted 09:45 AM EST, Mon November 16, 2009
Brewers Say Alcoholic Energy Drinks Are Safe – FDA Says, “Prove It” © Photo Credit: Mugley

The FDA has served spiked energy drinks makers notice – prove within 30 days that adding caffeine to alcoholic drinks isn’t harmful – or we’ll shut you down.

The FDA has sent notices to the 27 separate American companies now producing alcohol and caffeine mixed drinks, asking each brewer to prove the safety and legality of using caffeine as an additive in alcoholic drinks.  The nation’s 2 largest breweries, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and MillerCoors, have already stopped selling alcoholic energy drinks, following investigation and criticism last year.

A task force of state attorney generals has been working to prompt the FDA into action, arguing that caffeine can obscure the intoxicating qualities of alcohol, making people feel less drunk than they actually are. This in turn can lead to the consumption of excessive quantities of alcohol, and a corresponding increase in risky behaviors and drunk driving. In a Sept. 25th letter to the FDA, the task force wrote, "There is a strong emerging consensus of scientific opinion that the combination of caffeine and alcohol . . . poses a serious public health risk."

The attorney generals further argue that these drinks are marketed primarily at young consumers.

The FDA has never approved the inclusion of caffeine to alcoholic drinks, and barring FDA approval, companies are required, at the FDA’s request, to prove the safety of any additive. Joshua Sharfstein, Deputy Commissioner at the FDA, said, "We're asking for their side of the story. Why they consider adding caffeine to be safe or legal."

Michelle Simon, Policy Director at the alcohol watchdog agency, The Mirin Institute, commented on the FDA mandate, by saying, "It's way past the time these products should have been pulled. I can't imagine what these companies could come up with to satisfy the FDA's request."

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