The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to four beverage companies Wednesday, which manufacture popular alcoholic energy drinks, finding that the products combining alcohol and caffeine were not safe. “There is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern,” the agency said.
If the companies warned by the FDA do not reformulate their beverages within the next 15 days, the agency can seek a court order to bar them from selling their products. In anticipation of federal action, Phusion Projects — maker of the infamous Four Loko — announced on Tuesday that it would remove caffeine, taurine and guarana from its alcoholic products. (More on Time.com: Study: Do Energy Drinks Lead to Alcohol Abuse?)
Previously, several states, including Washington and Michigan — as well as a number of college campuses — had already banned beverages with both caffeine and alcohol.
The problem with mixing alcohol and caffeine is that it prevents people from feeling how drunk they really are. The caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, creating a feeling of being “wide-awake drunk.” This often leads people to drink more than they normally would — or to engage in unsafe behaviors out of a feeling of invincibility. As Healthland’s John Cloud wrote:
Alcohol functions in your body pretty much the same whether you mix it with caffeine or not. The problem is, you will feel better if caffeine is present. A 2006 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that people who consumed energy drinks with alcohol had significantly less dry mouth and headache than those who drank only alcohol. They also perceived their motor coordination to be better — even though it wasn’t.
For more on why this beverage has caused such an uproar among public health legislators, see Healthland’s previous coverage.