FTC Claims Phusion Projects Misled Consumers by Implying They Could Drink Four Loko Out of the Can


Phusion Projects, which last year decaffeinated its fruity malt beverage, Four Loko, under pressure from state and federal officials, has now agreed to change the product's labeling and packaging in response to a Federal Trade Commission complaint (PDF). 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," when in fact it contains as much alcohol as 4.7 beers (assuming the beer is 5 percent alcohol). According to the FTC, Phusion Projects misled the public by 1) selling Four Loko in "nonresealable" containers, 2) stocking Four Loko alongside weaker beverages that come in cans of the same size, 3) referring to the cans as "singles" on a marketing sheet, 4) calling Four Loko "the top selling single serve in the SE region" in an email message to a potential distributor, and 5) soliciting and posting on its website photos of customers drinking Four Loko out of the can (egad!). The thrust of the FTC's complaint is that Phusion Projects implied it was perfectly OK to drink a whole can of Four Loko in one evening, when in fact American public health experts have decreed that "consuming a single can of Four Loko on a single occasion [i.e., less alcohol than a bottle of Chardonnay contains] constitutes 'binge drinking.'" (A couple of years ago, I noted that "one man's dinner party is another man's binge, especially if the other man has a degree in public health.")

Mind you, Phusion Projects never stated that a can of Four Loko packs the same punch as one or two beers—a false claim that the FTC itself seems to have invented. Furthermore, the alcohol content and volume of the product were clearly listed on every can. 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." Phusion Projects also has agreed to sell Four Loko and "any other flavored malt beverage containing more alcohol than two-and-a-half regular beers" only in resealable containers, beginning next April. "Even though we reached an agreement," says company co-founder Jaisen Freeman, "we don't share the FTC's perspective, and we disagree with their allegations."

Not to give the FTC any ideas, but there are more than a few varieties of beer sold in nonresealable containers that exceed the commission's arbitrary cutoff for special warning labels. Santa Fe Brewing Company's Chicken Killer Barley Wine, for example, has an alcohol content of 10 percent, meaning a 22-ounce bottle is equivalent to 3.7 "regular beers." A 25.4-ounce bottle of Brewery Ommegang's Adoration Winter Ale, at 10 percent ABV, equals 4.2 FTC beers. And is the FTC aware that Duvel sells a jeroboam of its Grand Réserve (9 percent ABV) that clocks in at a scandalous 15.2 FTC beers? For that matter, an ordinary bottle of Champagne ("nonresealable" because of the pop-out cork) contains more alcohol than a can of Four Loko, equaling the power of 5.5 FTC beers (assuming an alcohol content of 13 percent).

So will the FTC be targeting craft beers and Champagne next? No, because those are classy beverages savored by connoisseurs, as opposed to sweet, neon-colored malt liquor sucked down by reckless "young people" mainly interested in getting ripped. As with the Food and Drug Administration's crackdown on drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine, which focused on Four Loko and competitors with similar images while ignoring many other products that feature the same mix of drugs, the FTC's action is mainly a matter of taste, as opposed to consumer protection (unless we are talking about protecting consumers from themselves).

chronicled the original, caffeinated Four Loko's fast trip from new product to contraband in the February issue of Reason. covered the subject last fall:

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  1. It says FOUR right on the fucking can!!!

    1. That may be true, but the lack of alt-text on the image is disturbing.

      1. "Four loco girls can't all be wrong."

        "Two is company--four's a party!"

        Either would have worked fine.

        1. No peace signs flashed and no duckbill lips?

          1. The one in back is close to doing the duck thing. And the peace sign is so 60s, we do the shocker these days.

            Well, at least in my published drunken pictures.

            1. Two in teh pink, one in teh stink!

          2. Aka "internet kissy face". The staple of any proper myspace page.

            1. my-what page?

              1. Think of it as Google-minus or Twitter-plus.

  2. So now people will just buy 2 instead of 1 big one. What a waste of fucking time.

  3. You know, with more and more blatant corruption and cronyism coming from this administration, I would not be at all surprised if this jeremiad against Four Loko was actually being driven by requests from competitors.

    I doubt very much that Anheuser-Busch likes Four Loko.

    1. You are such an elitist. There's nothing wrong with Bud Light Lime. It's made with wholesome rice syrup and it's what the rest of America drinks so that makes it better than beers no one's ever heard of and mumble mumble Two and a Half Men mumble.

      1. Obama drinks Bud Lite. You know who else drank Bud Lite?

        Not me.

        I have it on good authority that you drink Smirnoff Ice Raspberry Burst.

        1. Too far, man, too far.

          1. The truth hurts.

        2. I thought Obama to be more of a Zima man.

          1. So, wishing for Obama to get cancer will never work, great. Thanks a lot, Zima.

            1. I have it on even better authority that wylie's a girl drink drunk.

              1. *runs away crying, Sex On The Beach in hand*

          2. Nope.

            Biden's clearly the Zima guy.

          3. Zima: because zhit happens.

      2. That's a brilliant idea. A syrup made from beer.

        1. Not really. Coors already makes beer syrup concentrate, which is what you're getting if you drink it approximately east of the Mississippi River.

          1. Fermented sorghum syrup is the shit kicker of all shit kickers. Distilled with sassafras extract and you are coming down like a freight train.

    2. Coke and Captain Morgan joined forces?

  4. Next April: the EPA and NHTSA are set to go after Four Loko for generating more litter than similar products.

    1. The smaller cans are obviously an attempt to attract children.

      1. Four Loko causes lung cancer and emphysema, and also, I heard they're responsible for the economic recession and unemployment. I mean, I don't see Four Loko creating 100k jobs every month, which is pretty telling.

  5. So will the FTC be targeting craft beers and Champagne next? No, because...

    Wanna bet?

  6. Oskar Blues' Old Chub had better watch out. It is not old or chubby, it has more alcohol than a normal 12 oz. can of American macrobrew, and it comes in a non-resealable container.

    1. Or Oskar Blues' Ten Fidy.

      1. What about Dogfish 120 minute?

  7. Tangentially:

    "Pot smokers may be the largest untapped voting bloc in the country," [Johnson] said. "A hundred million Americans have smoked marijuana. You think they want to be considered criminals?"

    Gary Johnson: 'Pot Smokers May Be The Largest Untapped Voting Bloc'

    1. How many people had a drink before they were 21 and now support the drinking age? That 100 million statistic is people who have tried it in the past.

      1. Yeah, only about 60 million still smoke it regularly.

        1. I know people who smoke weed and still think it should be illegal. They aren't profit-motivated dealers, they're women.

          1. "They aren't profit-motivated dealers, they're retarded."


            And next time narc the bitches out, give em what they want.

            1. You can't narc em out. They only smoke OP dope.

          2. They are the same type of people as the Buffets of the world talking about the need to tax the rich...they need the government to tell them to do something that they could do for themselves.

            1. bass ackwards - buffett told the feds to tax him moar

              1. Reading is fundamental...Buffett doesn't pay his fair share because noone tells him to. He asks them to tell him to so he can do it. They have to tell him to or he doesn't do it.

                1. He's willing to get soaked if the other rich people get soaked, too. It's only fair that he not suffer alone. Misery loves company.

                2. Actually, he doesn't even pay what they already tell him to.

      2. people who have tried it in the past

        ... when it was illegal.

        All those 100 million who tried it know that it shouldn't be criminal.

        1. "All?" I only need to point to the president to disprove that.

          1. So you're saying you are certain he doesn't "know that it shouldn't be criminal" even though there's no possible way you could know that and are obviously lying?

            1. Seeing as how he has the power to actually do something about it and instead has continued the same failed drug war I think that is reasonable evidence. It certainly is more evidence than the claiming to know what ALL of the know.

              1. typos, I know, spare me

      3. "How many people had a drink before they were 21 and now support the drinking age? "

        Yes, but when it comes to weed, it should stay illegal because modern weed is so much more potent. Some guy on the local news told me so.

    2. You know what would get pot smokers out to the polls? Not smoking pot.

  8. So they did this to protect children from a product they can't buy until they're 21.

  9. right now I am drinking four beers and two cups of coffee I only feel the beer next I will do four beers and a vicodin then I will do four beers and a joint will report back on my highly scientific experiment

    1. ok took the vike on the second of the next four still only beer buzz I know yall cant wait for the next update

      1. If you don't update again, R.I.P. my friend.

      2. Don't Stevie

        1. thanks for the worries im ok i blew through the joint and now doing jack daniels

          1. put down the jack, it makes you age

            1. ok I made it

  10. This is so nuts. A bottle of Chimay is sold in a single big bottle that cannot be resealed and will get you completely drunk - and it has been that way forever.

    Methinks the big beer companies are just trying to stomp this innovative new company.

    Sorta like how if you wanna introduce a new cigarette you have to do safety testing.

    1. if you wanna introduce a new cigarette you have to do safety testing

      "Extensive testing has shown that in a 50mph collision, our new brand of cigarette causes no injuries."

      *FDA goon scratches head in confusion*

    2. I'd think Mad Dog, Irish Rose, Jeremiah Weed, and as Epi pointed out above, Ten Fidy are bigger competitors for Four Loko's business.

      1. Ugh. As bad as 'Four Loko' is (in a good way), it doesn't go full bumwine like those others.

  11. Jesus fucking Christ... do you think the makers of Four Loko are just constantly going, "REALLY? I mean, are you fucking kidding me?"

    Seriously, Feds- just go ahead and ban Four Loko, but let wine coolers stay on the shelves. You know you want to, and, as we all know, prohibition is super effective!

  12. Phusion Projects never stated that a can of Four Loko packs the same punch as one or two beers?a false claim that the FTC itself seems to have invented.

    Isn't that libel/slander? Let the lawsuits begin!

  13. All this is about is that Michelle Obama, First Lady of Qo'nos, is afraid that her daughters will turn out like the Bush daughters when they hit college.

    She shouldn't worry, having been raised by shrill harridan at least one of them is going into porn within the week after their 18th birthday.

    1. Now we need one of those Olson-twins-style hitting-18 countdown clocks, so I know exactly what week to quit internet porn.

    2. Nice, getting harridan into the comments for the second time today.

      1. I prefer "termagant".

        1. No love for virago?

  14. If drinking fourloco out of a can in advertising is bad,doesn't that mean trouble for all of the beer companies that advertise on Sundays?

    1. Pay close attention to those ads. People hold beers, but they never actually drink one.

  15. Mind you, Phusion Projects never stated that a can of Four Loko packs the same punch as one or two beers?a false claim that the FTC itself seems to have invented.

    Isn't that called circumstantial evidence? They have nothing direct, but they can make the outline of their claim.

    Furthermore, the alcohol content and volume of the product was clearly listed on every can. 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."

    BWAHAHAHAHA!!! Are you kidding me? That's the entire fucking marketing angle of the product! You think the kids are going to say, "Whoa, this is strong, I must be responsible and only drink 1/4 of the can, and save the rest for later." Somehow I doubt it.

    Also, haven't these fools ever heard of Belgian Ale? You can get a 750mL (24.5 oz) bottle of 12% beer at most liquor stores here in Texas.

    1. And grocery stores

    2. Yeah, my main thought was "5% is definitely on the low side for beer." But hey, when you can't win on the facts, you just change the ground rules, especially when you're a branch of the federal government.

  16. Who you tryin' to get crazy with ese? Don't you know we're Four Loko?(slapback echo)

    1. If they don't steal that line for their next ad campaign, they are fools.

      1. Cypress Hill giving tacit or overt approval of this delicious beverage would only cause greater government scrutiny. Still, great idea.

  17. I doubt very much that Anheuser-Busch likes Four Loko.

    MillerCoors. They came out with a slew of caffeinated beers in 2006, most notably "Sparks," which was basically Four Loko, and really popular. So CSPI/City of San Francisco/the usual-suspect states' attorneys general filed a product liability suit against Miller, because...some of their beer had caffeine in it. "Caffeine-drunk white women seduced by negro jazz musicians put their miscegenation-babies in the oven"-type stuff. And Miller caved. So now, if they can't sell it, no one can.

    There are other motivations, as Sullum notes, but they're mostly secondary/useful to plain ol' corruption.

    1. "most notably "Sparks," which was basically Four Loko"


    2. And Sparks is still on the market.

  18. What a fucking racket. Tyrants, usurpers, and cocksuckers, all of them. The Federal Trade Commission should be among the first to get skull-fucked out of existence in the event of a Paul presidency.

    1. "Tyrants, usurpers, and cocksuckers, all of them."

      But enough about the ladies on The View

      1. "cocksuckers"

        "the ladies on The View"

        Thanks for scaring my dick right off. A lawsuit will be forthcoming.

  19. equaling the power of 5.5 FTC beers

    That is a power to behold! and, therefore, must be regulated. Like newcular fusion. Or guns. Or commerce. or the 'f' word. Or, something.

    1. FTC: "We'll fuck with those people and control it and regulate it and ban it BECAUSE WE CAN. BECAUSE _____ WE _____ CAN !!!!!!!!!!"

  20. I seriously doubt it's a corruption thing. It was a response to the media hysteria over Four Loko so they could look like they were DoingSomething?.

    The failure to extend that logic to other beverages is simply because they know they would get reamed by segments of the population that actually vote if they tried to ban champagne or whine coolers.

    1. DoingSomething

      Shut the fuck up, LoneTulpa.

      1. Lonewacko never used the TrademarkSymbol. Maybe if he had he could have actually sued all the people spoofing him.

  21. "This can has as much alcohol as 4.5 regular (12 oz. 5% alc/vol) beers."

    That's often about how much I binge drink over a few hours almost every weekend. Had a bitch ask me if I've "ever been drunk". I choose not to get shit faced, most of the time. But, I must be an alcoholic according to the experts who defined binge drinking.

    1. Low-Risk drinking is considered 4 drinks or less at once, no more than 28 a week.

      1. No more than 4 at once, yes, but no more than 14 per week. At least according to the criteria the hospitals aroung here use.

  22. Fine, I'll go first:

    yes, no, yes yes

    1. Well, I don't know the question but do know it should be no, yes, no, no on account libertarians are always wrong

    2. clockwise or counterclockwise?

      1. Does it matter? The correct answer is "yes, yes, yes, and yes."

        Bonus points if one is still using her older sister's ID.

        1. Dude, with a prostate that small you must be able to go 18 hours between pissings.

    3. The answer is...the redhead in the back. She's not acting like a dumbass "whoo" girl. Check the look in her eyes....I think she's a kink-meister...

  23. And Ill tell yoou anuther theeng 2.

    Im tired oyou gumnt rigenmulbers agrobbenglobin mufpherillowilla glubbers

    1. Is the guy who mixed 4Loko ,Jack, and Vicodin above?

      1. Dude was hardcore.

        1. Funny, I used to get on IRC and knew some of the Phx area kiddies back in the day. Can't recall "ripper" specifically.

          1. I hadn't even heard of this guy before. I can't even imagine that taking 6 different psychotropics at the same time would be pleasurable, let alone what side effects might occur.

            1. Other than death, obviously.

              1. Taking multiple types of different CNS depressants is begging for death. Most "heroin" ODs are actually heroin + other CNS depressant.

    2. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, but it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.
      -Olson Johnson

  24. Last April at the UVA Law School Softball tournament I bought a couple cans of four loko and some caffeine pills and made some homemade (real) Four Loko.

    Suck it, federal government. (P.S.- we went 3-2 in the tournament with only 9 players in the field) (most teams had 10)).

  25. We have gotten many great comments from our customers and earn a good reputation in foreign makerts, more than 90% customers are satisfied with our products and service, till now our online members are beyond 80,000. As of right now, we currently serve customers from over 18 countries, and we are still growing. We really hope to expand our business through cooperation with individuals and companies from around the world. ---ercai

    1. I hate Ugg Boots

  26. I never drink four loco out of the can! That is preposterous! I only drink it 2 cans at a time out of a beer bong!

    1. God Bless America

    2. And you say Americans are not stupid?

      1. Americans are stupid. The early '90s "stupid" meaning "tubular and rad with simultaneity".

  27. (assuming the beer is 5 percent alcohol).

    Three-two beer, bitchez

  28. "This can has as much alcohol as 4.5 regular (12 oz. 5% alc/vol) beers."

    So the FTC is trying to promote Four Loko? Putting that on the can will help them sell more.

  29. OK, enough gabbing about four loko. It's time for a poll.

    Which saucy acquitted chick would you rather spend the first night out of prison with, Amanda Knox or Casey Anthony?

    1. In this hypothetical scenario, am I a toddler?

      1. or the girlfriend?

        1. Either way, I'll have to say Casey Anthony. Chick has a bangin body.

          1. Yep. Also because it's not certain that Anthony has herpes, but we know Foxy Knoxy does.

    2. Martha Stewart

    3. Definitely Casey Anthony. Amanda doesn't look that pretty with all the crying.

    4. boyz boyz boyz - take a look at the moms. casey's mom is moar attractive than amanda's fatt-ass blob mom

      1. You're apparently assuming this would be for the long term.

  30. Hi Great info for all boozers to learn about. Thanks for sharing this awesome blog post

  31. I was at the gas station, the other week, buying cigarettes. The guy in line ahead of me had two giant cans of Coors Light.

    I couldn't help commenting (to much laughter) that "If I were going to buy two cans that big, I'd probably want them to contain beer."

  32. Furthermore, the alcohol content and volume of the product was clearly listed on every can. 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."

    No! No! Please don't throw us in the briar patch >8o

  33. If the FTC is going to argue that listing ingredients/nutrients by serving size rather than container size is misleading, they are going to have to go after damn near everybody, because everybody does it that way.

    And do these geniuses really think that forcing 4Loko to "disclose" that every can of their booze will get you as drunk as four cans of beer is going to hurt sales or keep teh children from drinking it? Quite the opposite, it seems to me.

    1. "...because everybody does it that way."

      Surely that speaks more to all the sweetheart deals that the FDA cooks up, where it pretends to be a regulator while actively colluding in the deception of consumers? (Try figuring out what's in a can of cat food, for example).

      I'm no fan of regulators in general but, to some extent, I'm happy to see the FTC (or anybody) pissing in the FDA's pond.

  34. 4.5 Beers? Fuck me that was what I drank while doing homework in college...

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