Herrera, AGs Persuade FDA to Investigate Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Manufacturers have 30 days to prove the caffeine in their products is ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ or prior sanctioned

SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 13, 2009)— City Attorney Dennis Herrera today joined 18 state attorneys general in applauding the Food and Drug Administration’s recognition of the potential harm to the public from alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs) and its decision to request 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. On Sept. 25, Herrera and the Attorneys general sent a letter to the FDA urging the federal agency to examine the health and safety hazards posed by AEDs. In a supporting letter submitted by Herrera and the Attorneys general to the FDA, scientists and medical professionals who conducted research in this area concluded that the use of caffeine and other stimulants as additives to alcoholic beverages pose serious public health and safety risks and that there is no evidence to support the claim that caffeine is GRAS for use in alcoholic beverages. The researchers 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 driving under the influence, violence, sexual assault, and suicide. In response to the FDA’s announcement today, City Attorney Herrera issued the following statement:

“I am gratified to see the FDA is making this issue a priority. Beverages that combine caffeine and alcohol create ‘wide-awake drunks’ who pose a great danger to themselves and others. We hope the companies that produce these drinks and target youth with their products will take the responsible step and remove these dangerous products from the marketplace immediately.”

City Attorney Herrera has a long-standing concern regarding alcoholic energy drinks. Last year, Chicago-based brewing company MillerCoors stopped producing all caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including its flagship product “Sparks,” following an agreement reached by the City Attorney and 13 state attorneys general.. Alcoholic energy drinks are pre-mixed sweetened beverages that combine alcohol with high levels of caffeine (and, often, guarana, taurine, ginseng and other ingredients associated with non-alcoholic energy drinks).