Popular alcoholic beverage under local, national scrutiny


Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink, has been implicated in multiple hospitalizations across the nation. It has been banned in four states, and the FDA is expected to reach a decision within the week regarding whether caffeinated energy drinks will remain legal.UNF health officials believe the drink is unsafe and applies a dangerous allusion of being awake rather than intoxicated.

“It really is a blackout in a can,” said UNF Director of Student Health Services Doreen Perez. “They are cheap and discreet.”

The jumbo-sized, caffeine-infused, flavored malt beverage – conceived by students from Ohio State University – measures 23.5 ounces and contains 12 percent alcohol, 660 calories and the caffeine equivalent of a 12-ounce cup of coffee, all for $2.59.

Washington, Utah, Michigan and Oklahoma banned the drink after numerous reports of students experiencing alcohol poisoning. USA Today reported 23 students from the University of Washington were hospitalized after consuming the beverage.

Jacksonville University officials are deciding whether or not to join many colleges across the country after some JU students became ill after consing the drink.

“We believe a ban on any one particular brand name of beverage, such as Four Loko, would be very limited in effectiveness,” said JU Dean of Students Bryan Coker. “Other colleges and universities across have, however, experienced success with bans on general types of alcoholic beverages, such as hard liquor, for example.”

Phusion Projects, the company that makes Four Loko, said the product is safe in moderation.

According to a statement released on the drink-maker’s website, phusionprojects.com, people have safely combined caffeine and alcohol for years: rum and colas, Red Bull and vodkas, and Irish coffees. Furthermore, the company said it submitted a Generally Recognized as Safe study, which affirmed the addition of caffeine to alcohol is safe.

But a University of Florida study in February showed those who drink alcoholic energy drinks are four times as likely to drive while intoxicated as those who drink only alcohol because the caffeine applies a wide awake, alert feeling.

Students at UNF have mixed feelings concerning the drink.

Joe Basco, a UNF communication junior, said the whole situation is sensationalized. He said the drink’s bad reputation comes from its abuse.

UNF Assistant Director of Student Health Promotions Mike Kennedy also believes the drink has been “over-hyped” and doesn’t find it to be significantly different than any other caffeinated alcoholic beverage.

Kennedy, before and after the drink’s controversy, conducted his own survey of Four Loko’s availability and increased sales at stores after the controversy had been recurrent in the media, he said.

Kennedy, however, said any alcoholic beverages infused with caffeine can potentially be dangerous because it speeds up the ingestion of alcohol into the bloodstream.

Charmaine Martinez, a UNF communication junior, said she tried Four Loko on one occasion but doesn’t care to drink it again.

“They taste like juice,” she said, “so I drank four.”

Martinez said later, when she was ready to sleep, she couldn’t because the heavy amount of caffeine in the drink kept her awake.

Martinez said a ban would be superfluous because alternatives like Jaeger Bombs are often just as bad.

Phusion Projects announced Tuesday they would be dropping the caffeine, taurine and gaurana after the FDA made the announcement that they would be investigating the drink.