Phusion Projects, the makers of popular alcohol drink Four Loko, have announced that they will remove caffeine and other stimulants from their all of their beverage products. The decision to reformulate comes after intense scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration, which had been poised to ban the drink over growing health concerns with the ingredients. Although they plan to continue non-caffeinated versions of the Four Loko and Joose brands, Phusion Project's managing partners contend that Four Lokos are safe to drink and are comparable to other caffeine-alcohol concoctions like rum and cola.
"We have repeatedly contended - and still believe, as do many people throughout the country - that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe," said Phusion Project's managing partners Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman. "If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees...would face the same scrutiny that our products recently faced. We are taking this step after trying - unsuccessfully - to navigate a difficult and politically charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels." (WashingtonPost.com)
For those unaware, Four Loko is a 23.5-ounce alcoholic beverage that cost $2.50 per can and has an alcohol content of 12%. While its rise in popularity has been brief, it has already impacted the Hip Hop community. The drink has already inspired a number of songs and music videos (see below), and was even being served at the popular Hip Hop-influenced New York City restaurant Xiao Ye. Although the commercial sphere of the rap industry has yet to pick up on the drink, the drink's popularity comes right on the tail of the release of N.O.R.E.'s latest hit "Nutcracker," which is an ode to a NYC-based bootleg drink of the same name. In addition, both Jay-Z and Diddy have ventured into the alcohol business with their respective involvement in Armdale and Ciroc vodkas, while Lil' Jon starting a non-alcoholic energy drink CRUNK!!!.
It recently became the subject of much controversy after more than a dozen students attending Ramapo College in New Jersey were hospitalized after consuming too much of the drink this past October. Since then, a number of schools and even states like New York have banned the sale of the drink altogether.
For the better part of two years, the FDA has been targeting Four Loko and other alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine and other natural stimulants. Although there is no definitive study that officially states that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is unsafe for consumption, a study at Wake Forest University found that students were more likely to suffer alcohol-related injuries while consuming caffeinated alcoholic beverages than non-caffeinated alcoholic drinks.