Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Applauds FDA For Requesting Alcoholic Energy Drinks Makers Prove Drinks' Safety

November 13, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today applauded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for heeding his call to review whether alcoholic energy drinks meet federal safety requirements -- the first step toward a possible nationwide ban.

Blumenthal, as co-chair of an attorney general task force, is leading a nationwide fight against alcoholic energy drinks, resulting in advertising changes and Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors ceasing production of such beverages. But even as major drink makers stopped making some drinks, smaller companies have rushed to fill the void, he said.

Blumenthal and the attorneys general of Utah and Guam writing on September 25 on behalf of the attorney general task force urged the FDA to remove alcoholic energy drinks from the market. As a first step, Blumenthal and his fellow attorneys general asked the FDA to request beverage makers prove their products meet the agency's "Generally Recognized as Safe" standard.

The FDA announced today that it is asking manufacturers -- as urged by the attorneys general -- to prove the drinks meet federal safety standards. If the evidence provided by the manufacturers and gathered by FDA fail to show the drinks are safe, the agency can begin the process of banning them.

"This new ally in our fight against drinks that create wide awake drunks could be a critical turning point," Blumenthal said. "Our battle against alcoholic energy drinks has stopped some products, but others are insidiously exploiting the void. The FDA's authority and resources could add major muscle and momentum to our ongoing campaign. Our goal: a nationwide ban on these pernicious and perilous products promoted to young drinkers.

"We have scored real victories in the battle against these beverages and their seductive pitches -- persuading major manufacturers Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors to cease production and misleading marketing and labeling. As other makers enter the market to produce and push these perilous drinks, the FDA provides credible and critical health standards against them.

"Beverage companies are fueling a runaway marketing train -- unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with outlandish and outrageous health-related claims about alcoholic energy drinks. Alcoholic energy drinks perniciously appeal to youth -- and beverage companies are clearly capitalizing on it. Caffeinated alcoholic drinks dangerously mask the adverse effects of alcohol -- encouraging risky, irresponsible behavior.

"Energy drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine hardly seem healthy -- and could be hazardous. These alcoholic energy drinks foster the illusion of alertness, but in reality impair -- leading to car crashes, assaults and other violence and injury."

In a supporting letter submitted by Blumenthal and other state attorneys general to the FDA, scientists and medical professionals set forth their opinion that caffeine and other stimulants as additives to alcoholic beverages pose serious public health and safety risks.

The scientists point to recent studies that confirm that caffeine appears to mask, but not reduce, the intoxicating effects of alcohol. The result may be increased risk-taking and other serious alcohol-related problems such as traffic crashes, violence, sexual assault, and suicide.

The members of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Youth Access to Alcohol Committee (YAAC), which Blumenthal co-chairs, have a longstanding concern regarding AEDs. In 2008, Blumenthal helped lead attorneys general of 13 States and the San Francisco City Attorney in initiating investigations of the two former leading manufacturers of AEDs: Miller-Coors Brewing and Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

The investigations concluded when Anheuser-Busch agreed in June 2008 and Miller-Coors in December 2008 to stop producing caffeinated alcoholic beverages altogether. Anheuser-Busch's Tilt and Bud Extra and Miller-Coors Sparks line of drinks were among the products removed from the market.

However, other AED manufacturers have stepped in to fill the void with products packaged in larger volume containers (23.5 oz.) and containing a higher percentage of alcohol (up to 12%) than was in MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch products. Those companies include United Brands, which makes the Joose line of alcoholic energy beverages, and Constellation Brands, which makes Wide Eye.

The FDA has given the AED manufacturers 30 days to submit the requested information.