College students at universities where the alcoholic beverage Four Loko is banned might have something to look forward to as the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday announced new rules for marketing the much-reviled canned drink.
The new terms are part of a settlement won by the FTC, which sued Phusion Projects for wrongly claiming that a 23.5 ounce can of the drink contained the alcoholic equivalent of one or two 12-ounce beers and that it was safe to consume in one sitting. Four Loko has been determined to contain, in reality, about four or five beers' worth of alcohol.
Among the more noticeable changes in Four Loko will be the addition of an “Alcohol Facts” label. The label will also be applicable to any other flavored malt beverage that has more than two servings of alcohol, following an approval from the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
In March 2012, the FTC had proposed a different set of rules which applied to products with more alcohol than two and a half regular beers. The proposal also required a front-of-the-can disclosure, rather than an "Alcohol Facts" panel.
The labels will include prominently displayed facts about the product's container size, alcohol by volume, number of servings in the container and serving size in fluid ounces, plus the following statement: “According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, a serving contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.” Phusion will have 90 days to add the panel once it receives TTB's approval.
Furthermore, the settlement gives Phusion six months to package its malt beverages with more than two and a half servings of alcohol in re-sealable containers, in order to discourage the notion that the drinks should be downed in a single sitting.
While many complaints against Four Loko have called for banning it, the FTC stressed earlier this month that it does not have the authority to ban Four Loko or to force Phusion to limit the alcoholic content of its products.
Despite the FTC’s inability to ban or even limit consumption of the drink, Four Loko was banned from the state of Washington after nine students aged 17 to 19 from Central Washington University in Ellensburg became ill at a house party in Roslyn. The students were hospitalized and one, with a blood alcohol level of .30, almost died, according to CWU President James L. Gaudino.
The drink has also been banned from a number of other campuses, including the University of Rhode Island and Ramapo College in New Jersey.
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.