BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Some parents and lawmakers believe new government regulations don’t go far enough to protect consumers from Four Loko, an alcoholic drink linked to several deaths in Maryland.
Mike Hellgren investigates the controversy.
The manufacturer took caffeine out of Four Loko but some, including Maryland’s Attorney General, say it is still too strong with alcohol and he would like to see the portion size downsized.
Nicknamed “Blackout in a Can,” the furor over Four Loko has reached a fever pitch with an unprecedented number of people writing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) saying a settlement with the makeover of its packaging and marketing doesn’t go far enough to regulate the drink.
Four Loko gained notoriety after several deaths in Maryland, including that of Courtney Spurry in 2010.
“She blacked out within 30 minutes of having the alcoholic beverage,” Spurry’s friend Abby Sherwood said.
And then there was 13-year-old Michael Truluck just days ago.
“It could have been any one of these children out here,” Truluck’s mother Kris Keys said.
The government will mandate new labels telling consumers the drink contains the same amount of alcohol as four and a half beers.
They’re also requiring resealable cans and no images in ads showing people drinking from a single container.
But critics– including attorneys general in more than 30 states led by Maryland’s Doug Gansler– wrote the FTC calling Four Loko “disarmingly sweet, eye-catching cans normalizing and promoting binge drinking, especially among youth.”
“I think it’s inherently dangerous to children, and that’s to whom they’re marketing,” Gansler said.
They want the agency to limit containers to no more than two servings of alcohol.
While they say it’s a recipe for disaster, the FTC says there’s little more the agency can do. They say they can’t regulate size, potency, or ban the drink which is sold across Maryland.
“I don’t think it needs a label at all,” a Hampden resident said. “I think what needs to be done is parents need to talk to their kids about underage drinking and stop blaming this particular drink.”
The makers of Four Loko say they do not market to underage drinkers. They could not comment on the terms of this new FTC settlement.
The FTC will make a final decision on Four Loko regulations sometime later this year.