By Angela Criswell
The tireless efforts of public health and safety advocates from communities across Kentucky and nationwide, like the Keep It Real — Don’t Drink campaign, recently produced a significant victory.
In November, the Food and Drug Administration warned the makers of the popular alcoholic energy drinks “Four Loko” and “Joose” that caffeine is an “unsafe food additive” in alcoholic beverages, so their products were “adulterated” and subject to FDA seizure.
The Federal Trade Commission warned that because the FDA found these products unsafe, their continued marketing would constitute deceptive or unfair advertising.
Locally, Kentucky’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board urged malt beverage distributors and retailers to immediately cease further sales of these products.
Nonetheless, only a partial victory can be celebrated — because the broader problem of youth access to heavily sweetened, fruity-flavored alcoholic beverages that neither look nor taste like alcohol remains undiminished.
In 2008, after a group of state attorneys general issued a warning about alcoholic energy drinks, Anheuser-Busch removed caffeine from its popular citrus-flavored alcoholic beverage “Tilt.”
At the time, “Tilt” was available in 16-oz. cans at 6% alcohol by volume. Today, “Tilt’s” alcohol content has doubled to 12%, and its size to a whopping 24 oz.
At 4.8 servings of alcohol in a single-serving can, it is now a binge-in-a-can.
This is the tip of the iceberg, as new youth-appealing products will undoubtedly emerge to fill the void left by the now-banned alcoholic energy drinks.
What to do?
Parents and concerned citizens should educate themselves about products on the market.
Look closely at the grocery store beer cooler every few weeks and note what is new and how it is packaged.
Keep tabs on products advertised on Facebook and YouTube.
Contact your legislators, alcoholic beverage control board and retailers and tell them that selling high-alcohol-content products in such large single-serving containers promotes binge drinking.
Ask them to limit the size and alcohol content of the beverages available in convenience stores and grocery stores.
Super-sized cans and high-octane beverages should be sold only in liquor stores.
The success in banning alcoholic energy drinks is tremendous, but there are still alcohol products designed to be attractive to our youth.
And they all deserve our scrutiny and vigilant attention.
Angela Criswell is the Alcohol Prevention Enhancement Site Coordinator for the Bluegrass Regional Prevention Center. Info: 225-3296.