FDA Update on Caffinated Alcoholic Beverages

In response to pressure from law makers and published peer-reviewed literature, on November 17, 2010, FDA issued Warning Letters to four companies known to produce caffienated malt alcoholic beverages.  FDA stated that it found no support for the claim that the addition of caffeinie to alcoholic beverages is 'generally recognized as safe' and that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in the cited products may actually pose a public health concern.  The Warning Letters required the four named manufacturers to respond to FDA within 15 days to inform it of the specific steps that the companies intended to  take to remedy the violation or to provide evidence and supporting information to support its contention that the products are not unsafe.  Although that may seem like a short amount of time to respond, the companies were on notice of FDA's concern as early as this time last year.

FDA reports that within the last week, significant progress has been made.  All four manufacturers have reported that they have either ceased manufacturing, marketing and/or shipping the offending beverages or are having all product pulled from store shelves by December 13. 

While the available fact sheets certainly indicate that bans and limitations on caffeinated alcoholic beverages may make sense and while FDA is certainly acting within the power granted to it by regulating these drinks, one has to wonder how far FDA plans on taking this issue.  More than a few alcohol manufacturers promote the mixture of their alcoholic beverages with caffeinated drinks; there's nothing new or exciting about the combination of those two ingredients.  FDA certainly has the ability to regulate advertisement of food and other beverages - the quetion is whether it will use that power to adversely impact major players in the alcohol game, or whether it will limit itself to wrist slapping a few minor producers to quiet public discontent. 

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