Monday, January 9, 2012

Feds may block sale of alcoholic energy drinks

energy drinks

 energy drinks

 Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq hinted Wednesday about closing a legal loophole that allows pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks containing an unlimited amount of naturally derived caffeine to be sold in Canada.
Aglukkaq also said there could also be changes to the way regular energy drinks are labelled and displayed at convenience stores as Health Canada considers recommendations from an expert panel about updating regulations to protect against potential health risks of non-alcoholic caffeinated drinks and to help consumers make informed choices.
"In the next several weeks, we'll be able to move forward on the recommendations," Aglukkaq told reporters on Parliament Hill.
The Health Minister made the comments just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to four manufacturers of malt-based caffeinated alcoholic beverages, declaring that caffeine is an unsafe food additive in alcoholic beverages, effectively banning seven pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks in the U.S.
Caffeine can mask sensory cues that people may rely on to determine how intoxicated they are, raising the risk of injury or death through binge drinking, the FDA concluded.
None of the brands are available in Canada, where food and drug regulations do not permit the direct addition of manufactured caffeine in pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks. Canadian rules do allow caffeine in alcoholic beverages if it's derived from such natural sources as guarana.
The FDA said while Wednesday's crackdown only covers products which include caffeine as an additive, the safety review of caffeinated alcoholic beverages is ongoing and the FDA opened the door for further action against other pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks that contain caffeine derived from natural sources.
"The letters focus on the direct addition of caffeine, but obviously another product that metabolizes into caffeine would raise very similar concerns. While this action pertains to the direct addition of caffeine, the FDA is not giving a green light to the practice of adding other substances," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy commissioner, told stakeholders in a conference call.
And Washington State Attorney General Robert McKenna told reporters that it wouldn't be okay for companies to simply remove caffeine as an ingredient and use other stimulants like guarana, which is a natural source of caffeine.
"Caffeine is only one of the stimulants that these drinks contain, and I hope that continuing work and analysis is done by safety experts analsysing the impacts of other powerful stimulants like guarana, taurine, ginseng and so forth in addition to caffeine," said McKenna. "So no, just removing the caffeine and putting these products back on the market is not something that we would be happy with."
In Canada, Health Canada issued a clarifying letter earlier this year to provincial liquor boards to make it clear that pre-mixed alcoholic energy sold in Canada can contain caffeine as long as it's a natural aspect of an ingredient, such as guarana.
Aglukkaq on Wednesday said this provision in the regulations is now under review.
Meanwhile, the packaging of regular energy drinks, regulated as natural health products, also could undergo a makeover in Canada after the department convened an expert panel last month to consider whether labelling requirements and other information should be updated. Health Canada received the panel's recommendations last week.
These drinks, popular among young people, are usually located alongside soft drinks at convenient stores. The cans include fine print that states the products are not intended for children and should not be mixed with alcohol. The fine print also recommends that adults only consume one 473 ml can per day.
Health Canada has received 79 adverse reaction reports related to the consumption of regular energy drinks, half of which were considered serious. They include two deaths, four life-threatening situations and 16 hospitalizations.
Further, of the 79 reports, nine included alcohol as either a co-suspect or concomitant product — meaning either the person who reported the incident suspects alcohol played a role in the adverse reaction, or alcohol was also being consumed at the time of the reaction.