Four Loko’s days are numbered

Students may not be going Loko anymore.

Or at least the way they have been.

Tuesday, Phusion Projects, maker of Four Loko, announced in a news release it would reformulate its products to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine nationwide. According to the news release, the company will now only produce non-caffeinated versions of Four Loko, and the company has informed its employees and distributors of this plan.

The company’s announcement came a day before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned four companies, including Phusion Projects, that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive,” according to an FDA news release. Charge Beverage Corp., New Century Brewing Co., LLC and United Brands Company Inc. were the other three companies warned.

“FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner in the FDA’s news release.  “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”

The FDA said further action, including seizure of their products, is possible under federal law.

Big Daddy Liquors, located at 372 Woodland Ave., has been selling Four Loko for about two months, and manager James Swanberg said the store has heard about the product’s change to come and the possible ban of products similar to it.

“Chances are it will probably demolish the sale of the product,” he said.

Swanberg said some people have been stocking up on the drink in preparation for the changes.

“I actually just put two cases away for myself,” he said.

Swanberg said the banning of products like Four Loko has been a long time coming.

“It’s my belief that all the other products like it were made by big distributors,” he said.“Finally an independent came into the market and killed their sales, and it’s my belief that they’re being banned because the lobbyists in Washington for the big beer distributors were afraid of losing sales.”

According to the FDA’s news release, the organization is aware of Phusion Projects’ intention to remove the caffeine and other stimulants from its products, and the FDA views the announcement as a positive step.

The FDA has not heard from the company officially about the announcement, including when the company would remove the current product from production and how quickly it would remake its products.

“FDA intends to work with Phusion Projects, LLC and the other manufacturers to assure their products meet safety standards,” according to the news release.

The FDA’s actions came after a November 2009 request to manufacturers to provide information on the safety of adding caffeine to their products, according to the news release.

According to Phusion Projects’ Tuesday news release, the company still believes that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe.

“If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees that have been consumed safely and responsibly for years would face the same scrutiny that our products have recently faced,” said the news release.