In November the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned 27 manufacturers that they may be violating the law by selling alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine. Although the FDA allows the use of caffeine in soft drinks, it has never approved mixing the stimulant with alcohol. Unless the companies can demonstrate that this particular use of caffeine is “generally recognized as safe,” the FDA said, they have to take their products off the market.
The targeted products included caffeinated malt beverages such as Joose, caffeinated vodkas such as PINK, and even coffee-infused beer, such as the Ithaca Beer Company’s Eleven, a stout produced to mark the brewery’s 11th anniversary. Anheuser-Busch and Miller- Coors had already stopped selling caffeinated malt beverages (Tilt and Sparks, respectively) under pressure from 18 attorneys general and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which sued MillerCoors over its marketing of Sparks.
The critics argue that adding caffeine to alcohol makes people underestimate their drunkenness. They cite a 2007 survey by researchers at Wake Forest University that found college students who consumed cocktails based on energy drinks such as Red Bull were twice as likely as other drinkers to be injured in accidents, to ride with intoxicated drivers, and to be involved in regrettable sexual incidents. The researchers did not consider the possibility that such associations can be explained by the risk-taking propensities of young drinkers who favor trendy concoctions such as the Annihilator or the Jager Bomb, as opposed to the special dangers of combining alcohol with caffeine.
In any case, the FDA has no power to stop Americans from mixing such politically incorrect cocktails, as long as the products used to create them are sold separately. Nor can it prohibit such scary innovations as Irish coffee or rum and Coke.