Following last week’s order from the FDA for makers of drinks like Four Loko to withdraw their products from the market, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission has announced it is taking immediate steps to halt sales of the beverages in Texas.
The drinks, heavily marketed to college students, contain caffeine mixed with alcohol.
A number of people have been hospitalized after drinking the so-called energy drinks, and at least one death in New York has been blamed on the beverages.
The drinks contain enough caffeine and alcohol to result in people being “drunk but wide awake” and “virtual zombies,” critics have said.
TABC Administrator Alan Steen said his agency was asking all Texas retailers, distributors and wholesalers to immediately get the products off store shelves.
“I have visited with members of all segments of the industry and am pleased to announce that I have already received assurances from a significant number that they will voluntarily cooperate with our request,” Steen said. “I know that all responsible members of the industry will get on board quickly and act in a manner that safeguards the public’s health, safety and welfare.”
TABC is allowing distributors and wholesalers to voluntarily visit stores and to remove the products from retail floors for destruction. Additionally, retailers may remove and destroy the products themselves in compliance with any applicable environmental laws.
TABC also announced it will not authorize Texas retailers to receive a credit from distributors and wholesalers, nor Texas distributors and wholesalers to receive a credit from manufacturers, for costs incurred in the removal and destruction of these products.
“It is appropriate for retailers and distributors/wholesalers to bear their own share of the costs in this effort to protect consumers,” Steen said.
Because of information TABC was able to obtain from distributors and wholesalers, the agency has already identified more than 12,000 retailers that are selling the products.
TABC will adjust its inspection priority list and follow up to ensure that the products are removed from the Texas marketplace. Anyone who is aware that the products are still being sold in Texas may contact TABC via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 1-888-THE-TABC.
TABC said it will pursue voluntary compliance with retailers on a case-by-case basis.
“We gave the actions of these federal agencies great weight in making our decision to initiate this voluntary effort,” Steen said. “The FDA reached its conclusion regarding these products after a year-long study of scientific evidence. We felt it was important to act promptly based on the safety concerns the FDA cited. It is clear that voluntary cooperation by the good citizens in the alcoholic beverage industry will enable action to be taken much sooner than if we had to pursue contested enforcement proceedings.”
TABC also announced it will make recommendations to the state alcohol beverage commission to strengthen the agency’s ability to restrict or remove products from the market when they have been determined to be contrary to public health and safety.
In a statement issued last week, the FDA warned four companies the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages was an “unsafe food additive.”
The companies receiving warning letters and their products were:
– Charge Beverages Corp.: Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked
– New Century Brewing Co., LLC: Moonshot
– Phusion Projects, LLC (doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.): Four Loko
– United Brands Company Inc.: Joose and Max
The companies had 15 days from the date of the warning to explain how they will get the drinks off store shelves.
Makers of one of the most popular of the drinks, Four Loko, denied their drink is unsafe, but have agreed to remove the caffeine content.