Thursday, October 6, 2011

New label, package for party drink; local police glad to hear it

By Sophia Voravong :: Journal and Courier :: October 4, 2011

Fans of the supersize alcoholic beverage Four Loko will soon be greeted with warning labels that one 23.5-ounce can is equal to four standard cans of beer. And the cans themselves will become resealable containers.

This comes as the maker of Four Loko, Chicago-based Phusion Projects, agreed to change its labeling and packaging to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising, the FTC announced Monday.

The agreement is subject to a 30-day comment period before it can receive final approval and become effective. Distributors and retailers will begin receiving the resealable cans in late spring.

It was welcome news to West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski, whose department patrols neighborhoods surrounding Purdue University

"Truth in advertising allows people to make choices -- informed choices and informed decisions," he said. "That's a whole night's worth of alcohol consumption in a party setting for some people, or a whole day's worth.

"Even if people aren't reading the labels, news travels fast in a college setting. On a social networking Website or across the Internet, news spreads like wildfire."

A 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contains 11 or 12 percent alcohol. Four Loko labels already disclosed that.

But the FTC accused Phusion Projects of claiming that it amounted to one or two standard 12-ounce beer cans. It's actually equal to four or five 12-ounce beer cans, the FTC said.

A can of Four Loko that's 12 percent alcohol by volume will now carry a label that states, "This can has as much alcohol as 4 regular (12 oz. 5 percent alc/vol) beers."

Katy Travis, outreach coordinator for the Drug-Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County, said the new labeling is a step in the right direction. She believes Purdue students will take note of the strong alcohol content.

The labeling is in line with Purdue's ongoing AlcoholEDU campaign, an online alcohol prevention program for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

"Here locally, Purdue is doing a lot of work on safe drinking and responsible drinking habits," Travis said, "so there are students who are conscious of how much they can drink in one sitting.

"Even if students aren't reading the labels, they're helpful for parents or for people who haven't heard of Four Loko."

Phusion Projects took caffeine out of Four Loko last November after the drink became a target of consumer groups and regulators.

Phusion co-founder Jaisen Freeman said Monday that his company still thinks the product was marketed without deception.

"Even though we reached an agreement, we don't share the FTC's perspective, and we disagree with their allegations," Freeman said. "We don't believe there were any violations. However, we take legal compliance very seriously and we share the FTC's interest in making sure consumers get all the information and tools they need to make smart, informed decisions."

The label never asserted that one Four Loko equaled one or two beers and always showed the percentage of alcohol that was in a 23.5-ounce can, he said later Monday through spokeswoman Caroline Friedman.

Read an article from about the Four Loko Label Change here.

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