The Federal Trade Commission is now addressing a wave of complaints about the potent alcoholic drink Four Loko. Nicknamed “blackout in a can,” Four Loko came under intense scrutiny in 2010 following hospitalizations of college students in New Jersey and Washington state. Amid an FDA crackdown, the drink’s makers, the Chicago-based Phusion Projects, removed the caffeine Four Loko contained. The drink’s high alcoholic content remains unchanged.
Now, the FTC is reviewing how much alcohol each brightly colored, super-sized can contains and how the product is marketed. Late last year, the agency came to a deal with Phusion Projects. According to the agreement, the company’s products containing more alcohol than 2 to 2.5 regular beers will require new labels, stating their alcohol content compared to regular beer. The deal also requires a redesign of Four Loko so that the can could be resealed and would not need to be downed in one sitting.
The final vote on whether to implement this settlement is expected in the next few months. Meanwhile, the FTC has received an unprecedented amount of feedback from the public. In its recent privacy settlement with Facebook, the Commission received only 59 comments. The pending decision regarding Four Loko, however, has received more than 200.
The opposition, which includes the American Medical Association, contends that the settlement does not go far enough to curb Four Loko’s dangers. Some call for a ban on the product, while others call for a limit on the drink’s alcoholic content. In response, the FTC’s Janet Evans, a senior staff attorney, claims that there are limits to the Commission’s authority. “If I had a magic wand, this would be a smaller product with less alcohol,” she said. “But…the FTC does not have the jurisdiction to ban this product or to force the company to limit its size or potency.”
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