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Ban the buzz?

Caffeine-containing alcoholic beverages (or mixes – i.e. Red Bull and vodka) are under fire. The state attorney general and health-advocacy groups are seeking federal government support in regulating caffeinated alcoholic drinks. These beverages are a fast-growing product line popular among younger partakers [1].

Some proponents of regulating these beverages call for an all-out ban. Others advocate for warning labels advertising the potential health and safety risks of mixing caffeine and alcohol [1]. I certainly didn’t think much of my Sugar-Free Sparks back in college! MillerCoors LLC has agreed to remove caffeine, guarana, and other stimulants from their products (i.e. Sparks) as of last year. Anheuser-Busch has done the same. Other companies, however, are seizing such markets with their similar products.These companies include Four Loko and Joose, and are currently under investigation by several attorneys general, The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2009 [1].

Why such the fuss? Most importantly, the mixture of caffeine and other stimulants may mask the feeling of drunkenness which can lead to reckless behaviors. Is this really a public concern? Probably ought to be. Sales of one brand of caffeine-containing alcohol, Four Loko and sister brand Four Maxed rose in sales by 2,680% over the past year [1].

A Wake Forest University study published in 2008 found that 24% of college students consuming alcohol in a given month were doing so by mixing with caffeinated beverages. Those that did mix alcohol with caffeinated beverages were more likely than those who did not drink alcohol mixed with caffeine to experience negative consequences, such as alcohol-related injury, getting into a car with a drunk driver, or being taking advantage of sexually [1].

But how MUCH caffeine are in these products? Because the companies are not required to list the amount of caffeine in the products, most of them to not list the content. Rich Brest, a 36-year-old JETT drinker, says that putting the amount of caffeine on the label is a “no brainer.” However, he explains that putting a warning label pointing to product risks seems no more feasible than including a label on all alcohol explaining, “the only thing that can sober you up is time, not caffeine, not a shower. [1]”

What does the FDA say? According to their website, the FDA permits 200 parts per million of caffeine in alcoholic drinks — the same amount permitted in soft drinks. The FDA is currently performing further research on caffeine and alcohol, says Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA’s office of food-additive safety [1].

Stock up on Sparks, just in case, my dear northwestern boo bear!

[1]. Kesmodel, David.

Buzz Kill? Critics Target Alcohol-Caffeine Drinks. The Wall Street Journal. August 3, 2009.

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  1. Gina
    August 7, 2009 / 12:43 pm

    Something needs to be done regarding this issue, I'm glad you brought it up. I used to drink Red Bull and vodka in college sometimes, which was really stupid and always made me feel like crap. I wouldn't want my children drinking alcohol in combination with caffeine, so I hope something is done about it.

  2. Chow and Chatter
    August 7, 2009 / 2:04 pm

    bad mix, great post

  3. iluvshoes
    August 8, 2009 / 7:55 pm

    My story kind of relates so I'm sharing it lol. Yesterday when we were leaving the fan appreciation day there was a drink company set up outside the gates. My little nephew who is 3 and the 5 year old friend we had with us of course ran over to get a sample. The bright colors, inflatable etc I'm sure drew their eye to the table but as they approached the lady says, "Are you 18?" If you're not 18 you can't drink this." Apparently the amount of caffeine in the drink would harm a small child. If there is that much nasty stuff in a drink that children can't drink it, why should adults drink it? But yet there were people taking the samples right and left! I don't get it!

  4. Nicole M., MS, RD, LD
    August 8, 2009 / 8:00 pm

    Wow! That is scary…I had no idea you had to be 18 to buy caffeinated beverages with excess caffeine. Good to know, I guess, but yes…very scary that they're considered "safe" for adults. Diet Pepsi Max even makes me jittery and I am a coffee lover ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

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