Four Loko alcohol investigated by the FDA

Oct 26, 2010 at 12:21 p.m. ET

The alcoholic drink Four Loko is being investigated by government authorities after Washington college students were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. What is Four Loko and should it be banned?

Four Loko being investigated for a possible ban by the FDA

It comes in brightly lit cans and look like an everyday energy drink -- but Four Loko is anything but a harmless afternoon pick-me-up.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is launching an investigation into the alcoholic drink dubbed "blackout in a can" after nine Central Washington University students were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning.

Four Loko: Triple the alcohol

Four Loko is a potent combination of alcohol and energy drink -- one 24-ounce can of the boozey beverage contains 12 percent alcohol. Don't think that seems like much? Consider this -- one can of Four Loko is equal to about four cans of regular beer.

Other ingredients include taurine, caffeine and guarana -- all typically found in energy drinks. Experts say that guarana has three times as much caffeine as coffee.

Put all of this together and you have a dangerous drink -- especially dangerous for teens and college students known for their binge drinking habits.

Liquid Crack

The sweet flavor of Four Loko is helping it become the drink of choice for college students around the country. It's cheap, too -- one can of it costs $2.50, much less than a six pack of beer.

The idea isn't new on the market -- other alcohol/energy combination drinks are also available in stores. The problem isn't that they're illegal -- it's that young people uneducated about alcohol consume the drinks like a normal can of beer. That's what causes problems, and that's the reason why the Central Washington Students were hospitalized.

FDA Investigation

Some anti-alcohol and parent groups are calling for a Four Loko ban. Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna wants the FDA to investigate and ban the drink across the U.S. He also pledges to work with his state's liquor board to ban the booze if the FDA doesn't.

Four Loko manufacturer Phusion Projects insists their drink is no more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages.

"Consuming caffeine and alcohol together has been done safely for years," They said in statement on their website. "Our products contain less alcohol than an average rum and cola, less alcohol and caffeine than an average Red Bull and vodka, and are comparable to having coffee after a meal with a couple glasses of wine."



More important info on alcohol

The hidden epidemic of very young alcoholics
Are you sending mixed messages about alcohol?
Is your teen drinking?