The Food and Drug Administration is poised to announce a virtual ban of alcoholic energy drinks on Wednesday, even as a leading manufacturer is pulling its products off the market.
The FDA is expected to say that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic drinks, a move that would effectively ban them from sale. College students have been hospitalized after drinking the beverages, including the popular Four Loko, and four states have banned the drinks.
Phusion Projects, which manufactures Four Loko, announced late Tuesday that it would reformulate its drinks, removing caffeine. While there is little known medical evidence that the drinks are less safe than other alcoholic drinks, public health advocates say they can make people feel more alert and able to handle risky tasks like driving.
The company's statement said it was removing caffeine from the drinks after unsuccessfully trying to deal with "a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels."
"We have repeatedly contended -- and still believe, as do many people throughout the country -- that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe," said Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman, who identify themselves as Phusion's three co-founders and current managing partners.
The statement did not mention several recent incidents in which college students were hospitalized after drinking the beverage. In response to such incidents, four states -- Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma -- have banned the beverages. Other states are considering similar action.
Four Loko comes in several varieties, including fruit punch and blue raspberry. A 23.5-ounce can sells for about $2.50 and has an alcohol content of 12 percent, comparable to four beers, according to the company's website.