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The FDA announced Friday that sent a letter to about 30 companies regarding their production of energy drinks with alcohol. Why would the FDA target manufacturers of legal products with an additive that is as seemingly safe as caffeine? Don't we all take in more caffeine with a morning latte?
Attorneys General from 18 different states and one City Attorney sent a letter to the FDA expressing concerns about the health risks of alcoholic energy drinks. A 2007 study at Wake Forest University found that the mixture of alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant, actually masked the drinker's intoxication level and lead to an increase in injury, willingness to ride with an intoxicated driver and even increased instances of sexual assault.
The FDA will give companies 30 days to show that under their regulations, the addition of caffeine has either been previously sanctioned by the agency, or is what the agency calls GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe, unfortunately, no pun intended). At this time, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive in drinks at levels of no more than 200 parts per million and has not approved caffeine for use at any level in alcoholic beverages.
However, even your Red Bull may not be safe from increased regulation. Last October, a number of scientists and doctors petitioned the FDA for more regulation over the amount of caffeine found in non-alcoholic energy drinks such as Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster. The group is hoping for better notification of the disparity in caffeine levels in the various drinks and a warning about potential risks when mixed with alcohol.
According to CNN, some manufacturers of alcoholic drinks have already taken their caffeinated variants off the market, including Anheuser-Busch and Miller who have reformulated their drinks Tilt, Sparks and Bud Extra to leave out the caffeine.