Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Applauds FDA Probe of Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks

Press Release Date:  Friday, November 13, 2009  
Contact Information:  Shelley Catharine Johnson
Deputy Communications Director
502-696-5659 (office)
 


Attorney General Jack Conway today joined 18 other state attorneys general in applauding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement today that it will look into the safety and legality of alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs). General Conway, a member of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Youth Access to Alcohol Committee, is also pleased with the FDA’s decision to request that manufacturers of these products provide the agency with support for the claim that the use of caffeine and other stimulants in alcoholic beverages is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) under FDA regulations.

"This is a very important step by the FDA, the federal agency entrusted with ensuring the safety of these products. Alcohol-fueled energy drinks constitute a serious health and safety risk for America’s youth," said General Conway. "I hope the FDA will move quickly to take all necessary action to protect consumers, particularly young people whom the manufacturers of these products are targeting with their marketing."

AEDs are a class of alcoholic beverages to which caffeine and other stimulants, such as guarana, have been added at the point of manufacture. On September 25, 2009 the attorneys general and the San Francisco city attorney wrote to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the FDA, to urge the agency to examine whether the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages is considered GRAS under FDA regulations.

In a supporting letter submitted by the attorneys general to the FDA, scientists and medical professionals who have conducted research in this area set forth their opinion that the use of caffeine and other stimulants as additives to alcoholic beverages pose serious public health and safety risks. The scientists point to recent studies that confirm caffeine appears to mask, but not reduce, the intoxicating effects of alcohol. This may lead to increased risk-taking and other serious alcohol-related problems such as traffic accidents, violence, sexual assault, and suicide.

In 2008, attorneys general of 13 States and the San Francisco City Attorney initiated investigations of the two leading manufacturers of AEDs: MillerCoors Brewing and Anheuser-Busch, Inc. The investigations concluded with each company agreeing to cease production of caffeinated alcoholic beverages altogether. However, other AED manufacturers have stepped in to fill the void with products packaged in larger volume containers (23.5 oz.) and containing a higher percentage of alcohol (up to 12%) than was in MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch products.

In September 2008, General Conway was among 24 other state attorneys general who successfully urged MillerCoors, LLC to abandon its plan to introduce a new alcoholic energy drink, Sparks Red, which contained a significantly elevated alcohol content.

The FDA has given the AED manufacturers 30 days to submit the requested information. Additional information is available at http://www.fda.gov/