In November 2010, under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Phusion Projects promised to decaffeinate its fruity malt beverage Four Loko, the notorious “blackout in a can” that supposedly had let loose a horde of “wide-awake drunks” to wreak havoc on the nation’s streets and college campuses. A year later, it was the Federal Trade Commission’s turn to wring concessions from the Chicago-based manufacturer, which has now agreed to change its labeling and packaging.
The FTC claims the company gave consumers the false impression that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko with an alcohol content of 12 percent “contains alcohol equivalent to one or two regular, 12 oz beers.” Phusion Projects allegedly misled the public by selling Four Loko in “nonresealable” containers, stocking it alongside weaker beverages that also come in 23.5-ounce cans, referring to the cans as “singles” on a marketing sheet, and posting on its website photos of customers drinking Four Loko out of the can.
Phusion Projects never actually stated that a can of Four Loko packs the same punch as one or two beers, and the product’s alcohol content and volume were clearly listed on every container. But that was not enough for the FTC, which insisted on new labels declaring, “This can has as much alcohol as 4.5 regular (12 oz. 5% alc/vol) beers”—thereby calling further attention to the product’s most controversial attraction. Phusion Projects also agreed to sell Four Loko only in resealable containers.