Dubbing powdered alcohol “the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to supersede the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) by banning a product known as Palcohol® before it reaches store shelves. Created by Lipsmark, LLC, Palcohol® first attracted media attention when TTB granted and then temporarily rescinded approval for its labels, citing a technical issue with the amount of powdered alcohol in each package. Additional details about Palcohol® appear in Issue 521 of this Update.

Now Schumer has written a May 5, 2014, letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, asking the agency to work with TTB “to assess the potential public health concerns that arise by combining this product with food and beverages.” Pointing to a 1976 district court ruling and a memorandum of understanding that saddled both agencies with the responsibility to regulate alcohol, Schumer has urged FDA to investigate Palcohol® before its release, “to avoid hospitalizations and death that are likely to follow, particularly when the product’s dangers are largely unknown in the first few months of availability.”

“With powdered alcohol on its way to store shelves by this fall, we’re sitting on a powder keg. Clearly our food and drug safety experts must step in before this mind-boggling product, surely to become the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking, sees the light of day,” opined Schumer. “Palcohol can be easily concealed and brought into concerts, school dances and sporting events, it can be sprinkled on food and can even be snorted. Given that the federal TTB can only judge and approve new alcohol products based on labeling and taxation, it’s clear the FDA must utilize their authority to intervene when alcohol products create significant health risks—as they did with Four Loko— and stop this potentially deadly product in its tracks.” See Sen. Schumer News Release, May 5, 2014.