More Regulation for Four Loko?

Georgia lawmakers propose new labeling

GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- A year ago, the makers of Four Loko removed caffeine and other stimulants in the drink amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, but in Georgia, lawmakers still aren't satisfied, according to a report in the Gainesville Times.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is pressing for more federal regulations on the drink's maker, Phusion Projects, which has been blamed for alcohol-related hospitalizations, primarily among college students.

Olens and 34 other state attorneys general signed a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to strengthen the proposed deal with the company.

The proposal would require Phusion Projects to include the amount of alcohol in a can on the drink's label and compare it to regular beer. Olens is also pushing the FTC to limit the alcohol servings per container of the drink, according to the report.

Last month, Phusion Projects agreed to change its labeling and packaging after the FTC said the makers falsely claimed that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko had the same amount of alcohol as one or two regular 12-ounce beers.

But according to the FTC, a Four Loko can actually contains as much alcohol as four or five 12-ounce cans of beer. The drink contains 11% or 12% alcohol compared to many beers that contain 5% alcohol.

In working through the latest changes with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Jaisen Freeman, one of the founders of Phusion Projects, offered this statement:

"Even though we reached an agreement, we don’t share the FTC’s perspective, and we disagree with their allegations. We don’t believe there were any violations. Four Loko’s labeling and marketing has never stated that the cans were the equivalent of one to two beers. Our labeling has always clearly conveyed exactly what’s in the can in bold, capital letters: 23.5 ounces and 12% ABV. However, we take legal compliance very seriously, and we share the FTC’s interest in making sure consumers get all the information and tools they need to make smart, informed decisions."

Freeman also stated to CSP Daily News: "The labeling of Phusion products already goes well beyond industry standards, with six different statements in 10 locations regarding the alcohol content and the need for an ID for purchase. In addition, last fall, Phusion was the first company to voluntarily remove caffeine from its products. These new steps are consistent with our company’s commitment to being an industry leader, not just in sales, but also in transparency and corporate responsibility. By taking these actions, we are again demonstrating leadership, cooperation and responsible corporate citizenship."

Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard, however, said the labeling has created a problem within the county because parents don't realize the true amount of alcohol in the drink.

This latest issue with the drink comes after the FDA issued warning letters last November to four caffeinated alcoholic beverage makers, including Phusion Projects, warning them the addition of caffeine wasn't approved and was considered unsafe.

Those manufacturers complied with the FDA's concerns and removed the drinks containing caffeine from the shelves. They altered the drinks' makeup to remove the caffeine.

Still the drinks remain popular among some young drinkers.

"The county and city marshals both attempt to really enforce the alcohol sales and have a strong presence with our convenience stores, but the Four Loko is a drink that they can't currently mandate and there has been a problem with that in our convenience stores," Woodard said.