• Updated: FDA is investigating alcoholic drinks spiked with caffeine Friday, November 13, 2009

    The Food and Drug Administration announced today that it is looking into the safety and legality of alcoholic beverages that are spiked with caffeine.

    “The increasing popularity of consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages by college students and reports of potential health and safety issues necessitates that we look seriously at the scientific evidence as soon as possible,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in a statement.

    UPDATE: Here is the New York Times take on the story.

    College students are heavy users of the products, the FDA believes, citing studies showing prevalence to be as high as 26 percent.

    New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is among those who had called for an end to such products. Jerry Brown and attorneys General from 17 other states sent a letter to the FDA in September expressing concern about the products.

    Here is what the Associated Press reported today:

    Larger brewers like Anheuser-Busch already have removed caffeine from their alcoholic energy drinks. Remaining manufacturers include smaller firms like Los Angeles-based Joose Beverage and Portland, Ore.-based Charge Beverages.

    Calls placed to those companies Friday were not immediately returned. Other companies receiving the FDA letter include: Mix Master Beverage Co. of Stateline, Nev., Blank Beverages Co. of San Diego, Calif., and Phusion Projects LLC of Chicago.

    The FDA has not approved the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages and thus such beverages can be lawfully marketed only if their use is subject to a prior sanction or is “generally recognized as safe.”  For a substance to be considered generally recognized as safe, there must be evidence of its safety at the levels used and a basis to conclude that this evidence is generally known and accepted by qualified experts.

    The FDA requested that the companies produce evidence of their rationale, with supporting data and information, for concluding that the use of caffeine in their product is generally recognized as safe or prior sanctioned.  FDA’s letter informed each company that if FDA determines that the use of caffeine in the firm’s alcoholic beverages is not generally recognized as safe or prior sanctioned, FDA will take appropriate action to ensure that the products are removed from the marketplace.

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