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Four Loko gets a healthy makeover

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that many caffeinated alcoholic beverages posed a public health concern and could not remain on the market in their current form. One beverage the FDA will be regulating is the controversial drink Four Loko.

If Phusion Projects, the company that produces Four Loko, does not reformulate their recipe, the beverage could face seizure under federal law. According to CNN, New York, Washington, Oklahoma, Utah and Michigan, among others, have already made efforts to stop Four Loko shipments to the states’ liquor store shelves.

With the recent wave of publicity about the dangerous beverage, many Four Loko consumers worry that Florida could be next.

“I think the ban is stupid,” senior Marcel Ferrer said. “I really like Four Loko in moderation. It’s unfortunate that kids drink five cans and ruin it for everyone.”

The possible ban on the “blackout in a can” beverage has spurred curious reactions from Miami consumers. Facebook events hosting “RIP Four Loko” parties are described as one last hurrah to fight the government ban.

“The FDA can have my alcoholic energy drink when they pry it from my cold dead hands,” said one woman on a Miami Four Loko party event page.

But that’s not the only reaction to the FDA’s statement. In New York, mourners held a candlelight vigil for the banned beverage. On Twitter, the hashtag #fourlokoingredients was a trending topic for over four hours one day. On Facebook, Web sites like fourlokostories.com were “liked” by over 16,000 users.

“What’s the difference between Four Loko and a rum and coke?” UM graduate student Al Brown said. “We all know not to drink a thousand rum and cokes because the outcome wouldn’t be good.”

However, there is a difference between Four Loko and rum and coke, and not every consumer of the cheap $3 brew is a responsible one. A single can of Four Loko contains 12 percent alcohol and undisclosed amounts of guarana, taurine, caffeine and wormwood. The powerful mix is the equivalent to almost four beers and two cups of coffee- a dangerous recipe for heart health.

Phusion Projects has already agreed to drop caffeine, guarana and taurine from its recipe, which the FDA said is a step in the right direction. Media attention to the drink’s health risk has been provoked by news of nine students hospitalized after drinking Four Loko at an off-campus Central Washington University party, as well as a number of other students throughout the country in Four Loko-related deaths and heart attacks.

News blogs like The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post shared the video “Belligerence Canned: The Four Loko Experiment.” The popular video featured a man drinking Four Loko for ‘science’ and attempting to recite a Shakespeare soliloquy.

At UM, the alcohol awareness organization Pier 21 distributed a pamphlet titled “Lowdown on Four Loko: By the Numbers” to increase student awareness about the potentially dangerous brew.
“I’m okay with the ban,” senior Jennifer Del Toro said. “I know the effects and wouldn’t expose myself to that. The fact there is caffeine and alcohol in one drink is scary.”

Nicolette Roque may be contacted at nroque@themiamihurricane.com.

November 21, 2010

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Nicolette Roque

Assistant News Editor


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