The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) has rescinded “the approval of all alcohol energy drinks [AEDs],” citing “widespread community concerns aired by substance abuse prevention groups, parent groups and various members of the public, as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) decision to further investigate these products.” According to a November 4, 2010, press release, the commission also believes that AED packaging “is often misleading, and the products themselves can pose problems by directly appealing to a younger customer, encouraging excessive consumption, while mixing alcohol with various other chemical and herbal stimulants.”

The MLCC’s order gives retailers 30 days to remove AEDs from commerce and includes a list of affected products. “The Commission’s concern for the health, safety and welfare of Michigan citizens and the fact that there is not enough research to validate that these products are safe for consumption has made me believe that until further research is done by the FDA, they should no longer be on Michigan shelves,” stated MLCC Chair Nida Samona. “Alcohol has been recognized as the number one drug problem among youth, and the popularity of alcohol energy drinks is increasing at an alarming rate among college students and underage drinkers.”

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has reportedly sent 17,000 letters to retailers statewide, asking them to voluntarily stop distribution and sale of all AEDs. Although it lacks the standing to prohibit beverages deemed safe by federal regulators, PLCB issued the request after authorities allegedly linked multiple alcohol poisoning incidents to popular products such as “Four Loko,” an AED manufactured by Phusion Projects, LLC, that contains 12 percent alcohol and “high doses of caffeine and sugar.” The board also pointed to an ongoing FDA investigation into the safety of AEDs. “It’s the multipronged danger these drinks present,” one PLCB spokesperson said. “They’re inexpensive, in large cans, with high alcohol content. When you add in all the stimulants, it’s a recipe for disaster.” See Lancaster and Law360, November 2, 2010.

Meanwhile, New York University Professor Marion Nestle has “been following the current furor” on her Food Politics blog, which chastises AED labels for “voluntarily… marketing the higher alcohol content.” She also highlights one recent article that accuses Four Loko of retroactively sanitizing its social media “to remove all traces of evidence that the company… was promoting it as a party drink.” Nestle concludes, “None of this is news, really. The Marin Institute, which calls itself the ‘Alcohol Industry Watchdog,’ has been writing about the dangers of caffeinated alcohol beverages to young drinkers since the products were first released.” Additional information about the FDA’s AED investigation appears in Issue 370 of this Update. See Fast Company, November 1, 2010; Food Politics, November 4, 2010.