30 November 2010

Baltimore City Bans Caffeinated Alcoholic "Energy Drinks" UPDATED

UPDATE #2: The official press release.   Read it as you will: it specifically says "The Baltimore City Health Commissioner is issuing an order barring the sale of alcoholic beverages containing caffeine in the city."  But it also names seven products under six brand names by name, saying "The ban applies to the following commercially available products".   Other caffeine-bearing products such as coffee liqueur are not specifically mentioned or exempted, nor is amy distinction made between caffeine occuring naturally in flavor additives (coffee, tea, chicory, etc.) and artificially-extracted/consolidated caffeine as is typically added to "energy drinks."

The blogpost by Midnight Sun's Erik Maza sums it up nicely, in my opinion:  "Not content to have beat the horse, and left it for dead in a dingy ditch somewhere, Baltimore's health commissioner today banned the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks like Four Loko within the city."

Here's a succession of blogpost from Reason.com's Jacob Sullum on the subject over the past two weeks:

And now for something to distract the naysayers from this stuff: alcoholic whipped cream.

 UPDATE:  Howard County jumps on the "Ban Four Loko" wagon!   And Thursday isn't soon enough:  " ,. . . effective at the close of business on Wednesday, Dec. 1."

Baltimore Sun:

The Baltimore City health commissioner has banned the sale of alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

The move allows the city to fine, up to $1,000, those who continue to sell Four Loko and other such drinks in defiance of a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban and an agreement reached by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot with alcohol wholesalers and retailers associations to stop restocking.

"Removing these beverages from the marketplace removes the temptation to abuse them," said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, city health commissioner, in a statement. "The public health consequences of the masking effects of caffeine in alcoholic beverages are real and include increased risk for unsafe sex practices, driving while under the influence and increased risks for blackouts."

The ban applies to products including Core High Gravity HG Green, Core High Gravity HG Orange, Lemon Lime Core Spiked, Moonshot, FourLoko, Joose and Max. The city plans to officially notify Tuesday 566 licensed facilities.
More at the link, and here.  Note: the exact wording of the order has not been posted (as of this blogpost) at the Baltimore City website or other media.  Even the Baltimore City Liquor License Commission chairman, Steve Fogleman, is awaiting official documentation before commenting.

But I will note two things:
1) If this order bans the specific products by name, they only have to introduce new names.
2) Four Loko, for one, has already said it's removing the caffeine from its alcohol-delivery system products beverages.

Still awaiting word:  Has this ban just inadvertently banned Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, Southern Tier Jah-Va, and other coffee- and tea-infused beers?

The FDA, however, did say that its own actions against caffeinenated boozes were narrowly-focused:

Does this action apply to coffee-based liqueurs?
No.  These Warning Letters are not directed at alcoholic beverages that only contain caffeine as a natural constituent of one or more of their ingredients, such as a coffee flavoring. The alcoholic beverages that are the subject of FDA's Warning Letters are malt beverages to which the manufacturer has directly added caffeine as a separate ingredient.
Stay tuned.........

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