Four Loko Alcohol Energy Drinks Blamed for Illnesses

Central Washington University (CWU) students sickened at an off-campus party on October 8th apparently fell ill after consuming a high-alcohol energy drink, said MSNBC. The event has led state Attorney General Rob McKenna to ask for a ban on the drink—<"">Four Loko.

The nine students required hospitalization after attending a party in which there were 50 people drinking, as evidenced by blood alcohol levels that ranged from 0.12 to 0.35 percent after consuming Four Loko, said MSNBC, citing CWU President James L. Gaudino; other students mixed Four Loko with more alcohol.

McKenna said he is seeking a ban on these types of caffeinated malt liquors, noting that an earlier proposal never made it through the state Legislature. “It’s time to bring an end to the sale of alcoholic energy drinks,” McKenna said. “They’re marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol, and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are,” he added, quoted MSNBC.

Phusion Projects Inc., of Chicago manufactures Four Loko, which is sold in a variety of flavors, including fruit punch and blue raspberry, said MSNBC. A 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko retails for $2.50 and has an alcohol content of 12 percent, which means it is about the strength of five to six beers, said MSNBC, noting that the drink’s caffeine content can keep the alcohol effects at bay for some time, lead people to consume more than usual.

The sickened, hospitalized students range in age from 17 to 19 and were inexperienced drinkers, Gaudino said, adding that one female student almost died as a result of the event, wrote MSNBC. The students have been released, have recovered, and are in class; CWU Police Chief Steve Rittereiser said the investigation continues.

According to Rittereiser, interviews indicate that the students were not given drugs or alcohol without their knowledge, but did say he believes he stopped an in-progress sexual assault, although the parties involved later said the act was consensual, reported MSNBC. Rumors that women were being targeted with specifically colored cups containing spiked drinks are false, said Rittereiser.

At the scene, cans of Four Loko were strewn about and investigators found that all nine hospitalized students drank Four Loko, said MSNBC. CWU has since banned the drink from campus and is looking at its education program concerning these drinks, noted MSNBC. Last month, 23 other students—all intoxicated—required hospitalization over the course of a few weeks after drinking Four Loko. All of the students attend Ramapo College in New Jersey, said MSNBC. That college also banned the drink. In New York, another four students fell ill, as well.

Late last year, we wrote that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified about 30 manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that it intended to look into the safety and legality of their products. Most recently, Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how flavored, caffeinated alcoholic beverages are marketed, specifically those that appear to be geared to underage consumers, said The Associated Press (AP).

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