ABC Commission Acts On CABs
Special Report - November 19, 2010
Responding to safety warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the dangers of caffeinated alcoholic beveragesalso known as CABsthe State ABC Commission acted to help stores expedite the removal of CAB products from their shelves. The fruit-tasting, beer-based beverages, dubbed “blackout in a can,” combine alcohol with caffeine and other stimulants, and are sold in 20-ounce containers. CABs often contain higher alcohol content than beer (between five and 12 percent alcohol in CABs, vs. between four and five percent in beer) and have been linked to increased binge drinking and other risky behaviors. Safety experts, including the FDA, have raised concerns about the caffeine additives in the beverages, which can mask the effects of alcohol and lead individuals to drink more alcohol. At its November 18 meeting, the ABC Commission voted to allow retailers in North Carolina who no longer wish to stock the controversial beverages to return the beverages and receive a refund credit from beer wholesalers. Commission members also “recommended changes to ABC rules requiring beer products to disclose on their labels what stimulants, if any, they contain.”
“The federal action Wednesday effectively acts as a ban on these products that were found not to be safe in their review. The N.C. ABC Commission’s action today will make the rapid and orderly withdrawal of alcohol energy drinks from North Carolina shelves a reality,” said Jon Williams, chairman of the ABC Commission, in a statement. “The Commission is pleased with the expressed cooperation and support of wholesalers and retailers in this effort, and joins with the Governor in applauding the federal agencies for taking a risky product off the market.” Governor Beverly Perdue issued a statement earlier this month, calling on liquor manufacturers to voluntarily pull CABs from stores in the state until “they are found to be safe.”
The ABC Commission took up the issue just one day after the FDA announced that it has sent warning letters to four companies that produce the caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The four companies that received the FDA letter are: Charge Beverages Corp. (which makes Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked); New Century Brewing Co., LLC (which makes Moonshot); Phusion Projects, LLC (which makes Four Loko); and United Brands Company Inc. (which makes Joose and Max). In the letters, dated November 17, the FDA describes the caffeine in the beverages as “an unsafe food additive,” and warns that their products “are being marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” The FDA gave each manufacturer 15 days to respond in writing to the letter with an explanation of “the specific steps you have taken to correct the violation…and to assure that similar violations do not occur.” The FDA warned that continuing to sell these products with the caffeine additive could lead to government action, including “seizure of their products.” In a press release, FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, stated, “FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard. To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”
In addition to the FDA, the same four CAB manufacturers received letters from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in October, warning that the sale and marketing of the CAB products “may constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”
According to The Washington Post, three of the liquor manufacturers addressed in the letters have stated that they will comply with the FDA’s safety concerns, including one company that plans to discontinue the production of caffeinated beverages.
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