July 13/Albany, N.Y./States News Service -- Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the marketing of flavored alcohol beverages containing caffeine, alleging they are designed to attract underage drinkers, Associated Press reports.
Schumer's letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that the drinks' packaging is designed to confuse parents and police with labels that resemble non-alcohol drinks. He said that popular drinks such as Joose and Four Loko use very small print to obscure their alcohol content (roughly 12%).
Michael Mikhail, CEO of United Brands Co., maker of Joose, said his company targets adult consumers who legally consume alcohol.
"We don't condone nontraditional marketing. We position our product toward at least the age of 21 and older," Mikhail said. "We do not target college kids. We don't condone it."
Schumer disagrees, maintaining that 24oz cans of Four Loko and Joose appear hip with flash colors that announce flavors such as grape and orange, which appeals to younger consumers.
"It is my understanding that caffeine-infused, flavored malt beverages are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers," Schumer wrote in his letter to the FTC. "The style and promotion of these products is extremely troubling. Frankly, it looks to me as if manufacturers are trying to mislead adults and business owners who sell these products, while at the same time actively courting underage drinkers. This type of marketing is, at minimum, grossly irresponsible."
Last fall, the FDA began studying the safety of adding caffeine to alcohol drinks, noting the combination's popularity among college students.
From the July 19, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition