Maker Halts Distribution of Alcoholic Energy Drink
Source: NY Times — On the streets and in the bodegas, some people say they enjoy the taste of Four Loko, a potent and fruity malt beverage high in alcohol content and caffeine that critics have called a â€œblackout in a can.â€
It will not be on the shelves much longer. On Sunday, state officials announced that Phusion Projects, the Chicago company that makes Four Loko, had voluntarily agreed to halt shipments to New York State by Friday.
Gov. David A. Paterson and the State Liquor Authority said in a statement that distributors would have until Dec. 10 to clear their inventory of the product. Groceries, bodegas and candy stores would have a longer, unspecified grace period.
â€œThis is going to protect our young people,â€ State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein said at a news conference outside the liquor authorityâ€™s offices in Harlem. â€œThis is going to make sure our young people no longer have access to this dangerous product. But I donâ€™t think our work is done.â€
Mr. Klein has for months pressed for stricter regulations of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, which have been said to cause a â€œwide-awake drunk.â€
Four Loko, which has an alcohol content of 12 percent and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, came under scrutiny this fall after students who drank it at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., and Ramapo College in New Jersey ended up in emergency rooms, some with high levels of alcohol poisoning.
Earlier this month, both Washington State and Michigan banned the sale of energy drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine.
Jaisen Freeman, a founder and the managing partner of Phusion Projects, said in a statement that the company was the first to voluntarily halt shipments.
â€œAnd we think it shows that we are not turning a deaf ear to whatâ€™s going on,â€ he said, â€œthat a select few have chosen to abuse our products, drink them while under age or break the law and sell them to minors.â€
Kirk Leslie, 28, a Harlem resident who happened to be passing the news conference where there was a display of Four Loko and other beverages, said that the alcoholic energy drink â€œtasted niceâ€ and that â€œthey got worse stuff out there.â€
In some uptown bodegas, where Four Loko is often found between the beer and the juices, owners and clerks did not seem particularly concerned.
â€œItâ€™s not that popular,â€ said Ali Basem, a 22-year-old clerk at a store on West 135th Street.
Mr. Basem added that that he had sold only about 100 cans in two months. He reinforced Senator Kleinâ€™s concerns when he said that he had a pretty good idea of who was attracted to the drink.
â€œThe kids get wild when they ask for it,â€ he said. â€œWhen they drink too much of it, they start acting crazy.â€ Mr. Basem said many customers turned to Four Loko after liquor stores close.
â€œSo they come here, and they get it because it gets them twisted,â€ he said.
At the Lenox U.S. Deli, on Malcolm X Boulevard, Nabil Nasher, who said he was the storeâ€™s president, sounded equally unperturbed, if not pleased, by the coming disappearance of Four Loko.
â€œIf somethingâ€™s wrong, you have to stop it,â€ said Mr. Nasher, 49. â€œWe can sell something else.â€
One of his customers, Kena Marcell, a 32-year-old party promoter, said everyone she knew who had drank Four Loko had â€œnot had a very good experience with it.â€
â€œNobody needs that much caffeine in one drink,â€ she said, â€œand making it pretty with different colorful cans is just not necessary.â€
In his statement, Mr. Freeman said his company still believed â€œthat combining caffeine and alcohol is safe â€” if that werenâ€™t the case, Irish coffees and rum and colas would be under scrutiny as well.â€