Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Indiana Package Stores Ask for Voluntary Ban on Suspect Drinks

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers (IABR) is asking the state to take action in banning a potentially dangerous product that is being sold by retailers across Indiana.

Today, executives of IABR asked the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) to take steps to ensure that retailers no longer sell high-alcohol, high-energy content drinks, and are asking its members to take the first step in pulling the product from shelves.

"Several states, and the federal government, have taken steps to investigate these potentially harmful products-or approved outright bans on sales," said Brad Rider, chairman of the IABR board and CEO of United Package Liquors in Indianapolis. (Click here for a list of recent state actions.)

"Pending an outcome of a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we're asking our package store members to take the lead and voluntarily stop selling these drinks," Rider said.

Package store owners in Fort Wayne, Bloomington and Lafayette joined Rider today in making the announcement.

The percentage of alcohol in the popular drinks varies from 6 percent to as much as much as 12 percent alcohol, or the equivalent of four beers.

Nicknamed "Blackout in a Can" by college-age consumers, the high-alcohol, high-caffeine energy drinks are under increasing scrutiny by state attorneys general, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and now state regulatory boards that govern alcohol sales in various states.

In the past week alone, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and New York regulatory agencies have taken steps to enact product bans, moratoriums on sales of the product, asking for new state laws, and more. Several colleges and universities have also banned the drinks from their campuses.

"In Indiana, we're asking the state to step in as well," said John Livengood, president and CEO of the statewide association that represents the interests of 1,000 Hoosier-owned package stores. Livengood believes the ATC has broad discretionary authority to follow in the footsteps of other state regulatory agencies. (Click here for a copy of the letter sent to the ATC.)

Much of the concern over these type of drinks was sparked after a national incident in Central Washington when several young women passed out at an off-campus party and had to be hospitalized after drinking a beverage identified under the brand Four Loko.

Medical authorities have said that the drinks are dangerous because they contain stimulants as well as depressants. When caffeine blocks the effect of the alcohol content, it can easily be overconsumed.

According to regulators, a typical alcohol energy drink is 24 ounces and has a 12-percent alcohol content-about the equivalent of drinking four, 12-ounce beers at once. The drinks also range in cost from $2-$5 a can, making them a cheap and accessible beverage for college students.

In September, IABR also was the first retail association in Indiana to ask its members statewide for a voluntarily recall of an herbal item known as Spice or K2. The compound sold under various trade names is reported to be 10 times more powerful than marijuana, but is currently legal.

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