Four Loko off shelves, but not off streets

The FDA had ruled caffeine an “unsafe food additive” to alcoholic drinks after an investigation.

by Sarah Nienaber

Last fallâÄôs Food and Drug Administration ban of popular caffeinated alcoholic beverages like Four Loko left students across the country wanting more.
The FDA issued letters in November to four companies that make the drinks âÄî including Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko âÄî warning that if they did not cease brewing, disciplinary action would be taken. The FDA had ruled caffeine an âÄúunsafe food additiveâÄù to alcoholic drinks after an investigation.
Since then, the companies have announced their products will be pulled from liquor store shelves across the country.
To some college students, this meant a race to stock up on the drink before the ban took effect.
University of Minnesota nursing first-year Seth Watzka said he knows of students who bought bulk amounts of Four Loko before the beverage was mandated off shelves. At parties, guests with Four Loko often catch the attention of their peers, who ask whether itâÄôs the original and where it was bought, Watzka said.
A revamped version of Four Loko, which has none of the caffeine, taurine or guarana that was in the original, isnâÄôt as popular, Watzka said âÄî âÄú[it] just lost its luster.âÄù
Dinkytown Wine and Spirits  manager Dan Erickson said the drink has declined in popularity at his business.
The lust for the original may be the root cause of what is becoming a black market, according to national news reports.
While those who bought as much as possible last November may not have had commercial motives, selling whatâÄôs left of the original could be a quick way to make âÄúsome serious cash,âÄù Watzka said.
Craigslist, picking up on this potential underground market, has pulled all ads for the beverage since its prohibition.
Dana Farley , public health director at Boynton Health Service, warned students that Four Loko isnâÄôt any better for you now than it was last fall, saying that the large 23.5-ounce containers encourage overconsumption.