Why the Feds Banned Four Loko (And is your favorite drink next?)

On December 21, Ramiro Diaz was arrested for selling eight cans of Four Loko to an undercover agent from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Diaz faces up to a year in jail for the offense, but just a few months ago Four Loko was perfectly legal. What happened?

The drink had been the subject of many media reports which suggested that Four Loko's mixture of alcohol and caffeine causes young people to engage in risky behavior. The drink was even dubbed "Blackout in a Can," and the story soon moved from newsrooms to Congress, where officials like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) demanded that it be pulled from shelves.

"We must protect children from the severe and deadly consequences of drinks like Four Loko," declared Schumer. The Food and Drug Administration agreed, and in November federal regulators banned Four Loko. The company promised to yank it from shelves by December and replace it with a decaffeinated version.

So do drinks like Four Loko pose a unique danger to America's youth or is this episode more proof that that mixing media and politics can be hazardous to your freedom?

“Why the Feds Banned Four Loko” is written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning, Hawk Jensen and Jim Epstein. Senior Producer is Ted Balaker. Music by Beight, DJ Cary, CrimsonFaced and Sophia Marie (Magnatune Records).

Approximately 3:30 minutes.

Go to Reason.tv for iPod, HD, and audio versions of this and all our videos, and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Jerry||

    Stop enforcing federal law you pricks.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Whenever I hear some oleaginous pol exclaiming that, "We must protect children from the severe and deadly consequences of [fill in the devil du jour]", I reach for my pistol.

  • Matrix||

    Just go with "We must protect children" and reach for your pistol. This shit is getting out of control!

  • Jeffersonian||

    Fuck Nerf World and every snuggle-puppy Stalinist who promotes it.

  • Mrs. Lovejoy||

    Oh, won't someone PLEEEASE think of the children!?

  • Jeffersonian||

    One of the most awesome places on Earth for kids is the City Museum in St. Louis. It almost defies description, but what's so cool about it is the lack of padding, bumpers, warning signs and smoothed corners. You can easily get bumps, bruises, scrapes and scratches from climbing on and through stuff there, and it's just incredible in its scope and size. Kids need to know that the world isn't - and shouldn't be - a perpetually childproofed playpen.

    Now let's see if I can post the link without SugarFreeing it:

    http://www.citymuseum.org/home.asp

  • Jeffersonian||

    Fuck!

  • ||

    At least the link wasn't so long that it gets truncated. Having to copypasta the link is only a HalfSugarFree-ing.

  • Santa||

    Dear "wylie,"

    What is "copypasta"? Is that what journalists serve with a nice marinara sauce? Furthermore, your familiarity with "SugarFree" is disturbing. Watch it.

    Hugs and kisses,

    (not the real) Santa

  • Santa||

    Dear Jeffersonian,

    Despite your joke handle, which technically constitutes lying, a vice which, under ordinary circumstances, would land you on my "naughty" list, I'd like to remind you that the good people here at reason.com have provided a "preview" button which, when pressed, allows you to "preview" your commentary and check any and all links for viability. We at the North Pole and affiliated Christmas wise asses suggest that you take full advantage of reason.com's generous (and free) services. Thanks a bunch,

    (not the real) Santa

  • ||

    Ah be careful, the feds will want to shut it down too.

    (PS My kids love it there)

  • Sleeping Dog||

    SHOOTING those meddling fuckers would definitely be the best way to protect the wee ones!

  • Matrix||

    or at least be a good start.

  • omg||

    One of my friends told me how upset she was that the FDA always waits until bad things happen before they ban things like Four Loko, when in fact they should be banning things at first until it can be proven it was safe. This would have been only mildly annoying if she wasn't loading up her trunk with Red Bull to mix with Jaeger later that night when she was explaining this to me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Jaeger & Red Bulls? At least she got what was coming to her.

  • Jeffersonian||

    My stomach turned just reading it.

  • ||

    roofies?

  • ||

    Is that even necessary? Or does the RedBull leave them too conscious to rape?

  • Jeffersonian||

    Can we get an official ruling from Steve Smith or one of his imitators?

  • waffles||

    On red bull girls rape you back. At least in my experience.

  • ||

    had my 1st Jaeger Bomb on my wedding night... Both drinks are horrible, together they are truly horrible...

  • Mike Laursen||

    And is your favorite drink next?

    They're gpnna ban Yoohoo?!

  • Barack Obama and the FDA||

    No, Grape Nehi.

  • Andy Griffith||

    How about Grape-Nuts?

  • ||

    *insert the comedian who ranted about Grape Nuts containing neither raisins nor nuts*

  • Yule Gibbons||

    It got me to heaven!

  • ||

    Wrong thread. You're thinking of the net neut thread where they're gonna ban Yahoo.

  • Andy Griffith||

    They're gonna neuter anyone who eats Grape-Nuts?

  • ||

    It's the only way to be sure.

    (wait, what?)

  • Ripley||

    I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit!

  • Sleeping Dog||

    One of my old professors was adamant that cable TV and the resulting ratings war (24 news, talk shows, etc.) has done fucked up the country more than anything else in memory. Watching what happened with the Four Loko scare makes me inclined to agree with him as "instant access" news (as he called it) has created a perverse incentive to just "get the story out" as soon as possible no matter the facts involved along with a bandwagon mentality of "everyone else is covering this why aren't we?"

    He also was quite found of saying that "journalism schools produce the best fiction writers!"

  • Robert||

    What was he a professor of?

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Clearly not journalism.

  • Bucky||

    Octogenology

  • Warty||

    Diaz faces up to a year in jail for the offense

    !!!

  • ||

    For freakin' reals man. A year in jail for selling a fuckin' redbull-vodka premix equivalent? IN-fucking-sane!

  • ||

    Nobody tell Warty and db what can happen to you for selling a certain plant.

  • Phobos||

    I agree that it's stupid to arrest this guy in a sting operation but to say "IS YOUR FAVORITE DRINK NEXT?" is a bit ridiculous. Of course, most shit on this website is ridiculous. Liberardians are ridiculous. I'm glad most of them don't leave their Mom's basements.

  • ||

    I'm glad most of them don't leave their Mom's basements.

    Whatever helps you sleep at night. Might I recommend one of the popular prescription remedies though, as those basement dwellers won't stay cooped up forever (not the way things are going.)

  • Jeffersonian||

    Well, we can be sure that Chuck Schumer's fave poison's safe, at least.

  • Deimos||

    I'll be the Libertard drinking 4Loko in the car next to you tonight.

  • Warty||

    Is this a left-anarchist calling us chilish? How 'bout that.

  • Robert||

    Well, the video could and probably should have acknolwedged the handle FDA had on this issue, namely caffeine's status as a food additive as opposed to a food or a dietary supplement. That's why it was important to get the dietary supplement category enacted, because in this environment there would probably have been a lot of bans of products as drugs or food additives because of the perversity of where the burden of proof falls in banning such products according to current enabling statutes.

    But that's just as regards bans by a federal or perhaps even a state administrative agency by regulation. When it comes to out-and-out legislation, there's no telling what can happen according to the logic Jacob laid out.

  • Bill||

    What are your favorite banned items?

    My favorites (by which I mean my least favorites) are the ridiculous (is that spelled right? It looks ridiculous) ban on pseudephedrine from over the counter cold medicines and then the subsequent, "oh you can get them from the pharmacist" when in fact the never had any in stock. Treating something that had been around for 50 years like it was a dangerous substance just because a few people used it to make speed.

    Another is the ban to take effect on light bulbs next year. It will be interesting to see what happens to CFL prices.

    A bit off topic but related is the TSA bans on each new threat. Box-cutters used by terrorists, so confiscate and throw away billions of nail clippers, tiny pocket knives, and eyebrow pencil sharpeners.

    Then someone puts a bomb in their shoe so all shoes are scanned.

    Then someone tries some liquids so billions of bottles of liquids are confiscated or thrown away and now we are only allowed a few ounces of deoderant or mouthwash.

    Then an underwear bomber so they have to scan all our underwear.

    Meanwhile I think Canada has private security firms and private air traffic controllers. Can somebody check my assertions? I'm too lazy.

  • Bucky||

    why don't you get TSA to check yer ass-ertions?

  • Warty||

    But why? Because labour has the ability to produce a flexible amount of output (use value) for a given wage. Unlike coal or steel, a worker can be made to work more intensely during a given working period and so technology can be utilised to maximise that effort as well as increasing the pool of potential replacements for an employee by deskilling their work (so reducing workers' power to get higher wages for their work). Thus technology is a key way of increasing the power of the boss, which in turn can increase output per worker while ensuring that the workers' receive relatively less of that output back in terms of wages - "Machines," argued Proudhon, "promised us an increase of wealth they have kept their word, but at the same time endowing us with an increase of poverty. They promised us liberty. . . [but] have brought us slavery." 21

    Seriously, dude. Fuck you.

  • Trespassers W||

    Am I a worker or a boss? I forget.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You're a parasite, like everyone other non-troll who posts here often.

  • Ted S.||

    25-30 years ago, when the anti-smoking brigade was really getting going, there were people saying that telling people they couldn't put nicotine in their bodies was just a step away from telling people what they could and couldn't eat.

    The bansturbators pooh-poohed this. But look who turned out to be prescient.

  • Joe M||

    My favorite drink is the blood of the citizens.

  • ||

    Make mine orphans' tears--neat!

  • IceTrey||

    The line about Diaz is completely disingenuous. He wasn't arrested for selling Four Loko per se. He was arrested for selling alcohol without a license and selling a malt beverage online. If he had been selling Budweiser he would be facing the same charges.

  • ||

    For a magazine named "Reason"....

    or

    Postrel actually read the articles she linked to....

  • ||

    Yeah, I'm confident the Virginia Bureau of Alcohol/Statism regularly checks Craigslist to see if anyone is looking to unload a couple of Budweisers

  • Warty||

    That said, a year in prison is beyond absurd.

  • Bill||

    It is for good of citizens, comrade!

  • ||

    How hard would it be for 4Loko to just reformulate? Make the beverage with coffee beans instead of extracted caffeine.

    Granted, It's probably difficult to undertake a reformulatin' when you're not making money anymore.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They are removing the caffeine.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The Phusion Products website.

  • Robert||

    Looks from the last para. of their press release that they're out for revenge or an equalizer, looking to take down everyone else with them. Meanwhile, from what I understand, 4Loco, like other "smart" drinks, tasted so awful that they should easily be able to reformulate however they want without even tasting it.

  • IceTrey||

    They should just attach a packet of powdered caffeine to the side of each can. Then tell the FDA "Hey it's not IN the drink."

  • Warty||

    So, shockingly enough, African governments are stealing land from farmers. Who does the New York Times blame? Those fucking racist investors.

  • hank 3||

    Soon they will be monitoring our calorie consumption and rationing our water intake for the good of ourselves and our planet. Jeez...when will people realize we have a RIGHT to be left alone?

    Interesting take on civil liberties and politics in general. Also a refreshing definition of the classic liberal and traditional conservative

    http://confederateunderground......ional.html

  • ||

    Jacob makes a good point. It's not like people who drink Four Loko are thinking, "I'm going to curl up with a good book and a glass of the finest Four Loko", then all of the sudden...BLOTTO!

  • ||

    Or is it all of a sudden? I have difficulty with that idiom.

  • jacob||

    "the" sounds better

  • ||

    Wrong; it's "a" that sounds better.

  • MRK||

    Can anyone give me one shred of scientific evidence why this product was banned, and mixing Red Bull+Rum or Coffee+Whiskey was not?

    The only way to really protect the children is to ban having children. Its the only way to be sure.

  • ||

    scientific evidence

    Bwa...BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Seriously though, didn't you, like, see all those news stories that said it was totally evil? *snort* *chortle*

  • NoVAHockey||

    Four Loko was banned b/c they didn't hire good lobbyists and a crisis communications team fast enough. or hold enough fundraisers.

  • Tim||

    Add alcohol to gasoline get a subsidy.
    Add alcohol to caffeine go to jail.

  • Ted S.||

    And because it's the Snooki Class that drinks the stuff.

    Middle-class metropolitan puritans are some of the biggest bigots out there.

  • Bill||

    Snooki has class?

  • Bill||

    By the way, is it just me or is she buuutt-ugly?

  • TDB||

    @ Bill: I assure you, it ain't just you.

  • Robert||

    Because when you mix Red Bull with Rum, you and your product are not under FDA jurisdiction.

  • St. V||

    Bless you, for missing the point.

  • ||

    Somewhat understandable, but what about going to a bar and ordering a red bull and vodka? How is that then ant different?

  • Mr Lizard||

    Our mad scientists down here in Zombieland florida have developed a solution to "New Four Loko"
    Step 1. Buy new low energy Four Loko
    Step 2. Drink about 2-4 ounces (try not too wince
    Step 3. Pour in a 5 hour energy or other similar product
    Step 4. Swirl gently and enjoy
    Warning: may lead to a drunk and disorderly charge, excessive climbing, or grenade jumping.

  • Wind Rider||

    So which absolutely disgusting and wince inducing craptastic flavor dominates? The 4Loko, or the 5 hour?

  • ptolemy||

    9 HOUR CRAZY

  • Mr Lizard||

    The Four Loko wins by volume and pure overcraptastic density.

  • Tim||

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    While visions of four loko danced in their heads.

    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
    Away to the window I flew like a flash,
    Tore open the shutters and saw cops going through my trash.

    The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
    Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    But a SWAT team, and assault vehicle towards my door starting to veer.

    More rapid than eagles these coursers they came,
    And they whistled, and shouted, and they called me a name!
    "Open up motherfucker!"

    To the top of the porch! With a two man battering ram!
    Now bash away! Take the door who gives a damn?

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fled,
    When they met with my dog, whom they shot through the head.

    So up to the house-top the constables they flew,
    With their twelve gauges, and MP-5's too.
    As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
    Through the window an agent rapelled with a bound.

    He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
    And his clothes were all tarnished with dog brains and soot.
    A bundle of grenades he had flung on his back,
    And he looked like a ninja, just opening his pack.

  • ||

    That's good.

  • ||

    And I with my AK, and Mom busting caps, sent the Fascists to a long, deserved dirt nap.

    When jackbooted Government Thugs come a'callin', they better expect me to be brawlin'.

  • ||

    """We must protect children from the severe and deadly consequences of drinks like Four Loko," declared Schumer.""

    I don't see him lobbing to get beer out of bodegas and convient stores.

  • Wind Rider||

    When are folks going to figure out that EVERYONE needs to be protected from Chuckie Schumer?

  • ||

    Certainly not New York State voters. They think this control freak is just wonderful. Neither do the NYS Republicums as they fail to find a viable candidate to run against him. As my right-wing friend says "He's scary; for a leftist Progressive, he almost sounds sane at times."

  • ||

    I propose a new rule:

    If any drug is to be banned because it is too awesome, the legislative body must pass the law to ban the drug under the influence of the drug they are banning.

  • Number 2||

    A "Blackout in a Can" that causes "Wide-Awake Drunks."

    Will someone please tell these lunkheads that someone who has blacked out is NOT "wide awake?" And that "wide awake" people tend not to black out?

    Jeez..do they even bother listening to themselves?

  • Wind Rider||

    It's all about sensationalizing for the ratings, since the FCC won't let the chick reporters do the news topless. Bastards.

  • Paul||

    On December 21, Ramiro Diaz was arrested for selling eight cans of Four Loko to an undercover agent from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Diaz faces up to a year in jail for the offense, but just a few months ago Four Loko was perfectly legal. What happened?

    The War on Drugs is what happened. And while libertarians cheer minor, picayune changes to marijuana laws as major rollbacks of the War on Drugs, it's spilling into every other aspect of our lives under the guise of 'healthcare externalities'.

  • Hacha Cha||

    Maybe the safety society will go back to absinthe hysteria next.

  • WellDoneSon||

    Gee, what a surprise, a Democrat senator was involved.

    How have you Americans allowed so many dumb a$$holes to get to such high ranking positions?

  • Poppin' Caps lock||

    I already know why it was banned.

    To generate a sense of self-satisfaction and false self-empowerment within anyone who supported the ban. Pathetic.

  • ||

    The best solution to dangerous binge-drinking habits among our youth is to lower the drinking age to 18 (or even 16). Then, instead of drinking unsupervised at parties while engaging in stupid behavior, the bartender can cut them off and call a cab when they've had too much.

    A fringe benefit would be that the kids would more quickly develop a somewhat refined taste in alcohol so that there would not be a market for crap-in-a-can drinks like Four Loko.

  • Dan||

    moral panic or not, uppers with booze is dangerous. ETOH would not get on the market today's FDA standards. Its safe in moderation. Keeping people awake too long while they drink alcohol is far too risky. Dont blame the media for pointing out that this combo is bad. It is. Its a minor version of the eight ball combo of heroin and cocaine. Normally heroine use makes you fall asleep. Add an upper to it, and you can use longer, longer to the point of death. I am a liberal/progressive voter. The subtext of this article is nuts. Most drugs of abuse self limit before lethality. Combining them negates this reality. Its tough to drink yourself into a coma or toxicity on ETOH alone, ad a stimulant and you are more likely to stay awake long enough to kill yourself or at least poison yourself on cheap and legal booze.

  • um||

    ...and this justifies devoting law enforcement resources to perform a sting operation which subsequently puts a human being in the position where he faces up to a year of losing basic human rights?

    And where in the video/article is it claimed that it's NOT dangerous? The claim is that mixing alcohol and caffeine is nothing new, and to get up in arms about it now just because it comes in a single can is ridiculous and follows no logical reasoning.

    Not to mention the whole "people have a right to put into their own bodies whatever they damn well please" thing...

  • ||

    What is amusing about the concept of protecting children is the children we are protecting are adults.

  • Patrick||

    Who cares if there's two studies? This drink clearly had problems associated with it...

  • insurances||

    How hard would it be for 4Loko to just reformulate? Make the beverage with coffee beans instead of extracted caffeine.

    Granted, It's probably difficult to undertake a reformulatin' when you're not making money anymore.

  • ||

    Are you kidding me? Do they not sell Everclear in that state?

  • ||

    It's not the pure fact that it is caffeine and alcohol that makes it dangerous. It's the fact that it comes off as an energy drink more so than an alcoholic beverage. With alcohol, people drink to their limit's, but with an energy drink, they see no limit, no danger in sugar and caffeine. With Red Bull and vodka, your brain tells you that it is an alcoholic beverage and to watch itself, but with Four Loko you might see it as an energy drink first and alcoholic beverage second. Add to that the fact that those younger than 21 were more attracted to it based off it's sweet taste (read, non-alcoholic), that they could drink 3-4 at a time. The FDA is not here to impose it's will on the people, it's here to protect the people from things they can't see or gauge (salmonella, large amounts of pesticides, ect).

  • 10 OZ.||

    Existentialist, Pious, Coagulate, Antidisestablishmentarianism. See? Now i know tough and/or big words too! (I really just copied them from a dictionary page online). That aside, let's take into consideration the fact that this is like getting rid of highballs. What? Oh, someone already made the connection? In a negative aspect? Mmmm...FREE NELSON MANDELA!!! (That whole thing took me, like, a half an hour to think of).

  • 10 OZ.||

    Nelson Mandela is already free and currently president of South Africa. IDIOT!! Oh, damn...that's my comment from earlier...

  • Edwin||

    more people might listen to the kind of people who point out that these food bans that keep happening are shrill if those people themselves weren't so shrill and called taxes "theft" and claimed all government is oppressive

  • Hate Potion Number Nine||

    Almost hate to say it but he's right. Come on, maybe now's the time to admit that referring to every leash law and leaf burning ordinance as Stalinist oppression has left libertarian credibility a wee tad tarnished?

    Well, dears, the wolf may really be behind us now but who will believe your cries?

  • Bartender||

    I have two words that I have been puzzling about since I heard about this banning effort:

    Irish Coffee

    http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink4414.html

  • ||

    Dude thats some pretty scary stuff when you think about it!

    www.online-privacy.ie.tc

  • ||

    Protect the children?! I thought that is what the drinking age was for... the only people who were legally able to buy this stuff were adults age 21+. This is an attempt to protect adults from themselves, which makes no sense because adults can still by any alcohol they want and mix it with caffeine if they choose.

  • ||

    Alcohol is alcohol is alcohol.

  • ||

    so i go ham every weekend and every weekend i drink 4loko until i black out... I LOVE 4LOkO and i love to party. In

  • Atown||

    what the fuck these guys are just trying to find something to else to bitch about. Whats the difference between alcohol and alcohol duhhhhhhhhhhhh get over it congress

  • Atown||

    anybody that agrees with the FDA is a MORON ROFL

  • ddexter08||

    I vote these comments be forwarded to the dipshits who are constantly limiting our freedoms to make bad decisions!

  • nike shoes UK||

    is good

  • NBA jersey||

    perfect

  • discount mbt||

    perfect

  • topsbdunksale||

    perfect

  • Cheap adidas shoes||

    perfect

  • qiaofeng||

    outlet

  • xiaofeng||

    outlet

  • jiusuan||

    outlet

  • cajia||

    outlet

  • fantasy||

    impairment" that corresponds to a probability nike shox tl3 of an accident. Standard psychomotor tests of impairment do not test driving habits. For instance almost *all* people over the age of 60 are "impaired" in terms of those tests, oakely sunglasses but these people do not have a higher accident rate. Older people develop compensatory driving habits

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement