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Utah AG's office praises FDA investigation

Utah AG's office praises FDA investigation



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Food and Drug Administration is probing alcoholic energy drinks and their marketing, and the move is being applauded by Utah's attorney general.

"[It's a] Huge amount of alcohol, huge amount of stimulant, and it's going to be a major, major health issue if we can't nip it in the bud," Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in an interview with KSL Newsradio Wednesday.

Shurtleff says drinks like Joose are being marketed to teens.

"You'll see how they market is with the various brands, and [they're] clearly very attractive to underage drinkers. So, we want them to stop, and the FDA is the mechanism to do that," Shurtleff said.

The FDA issued a letter Friday to 30 beverage manufacturers giving them 30 days to provide evidence that the combination of caffeine and alcohol is safe.

"The FDA has listed caffeine only as an ingredient for use in soft drinks," said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. "The agency has not approved caffeine for use in alcoholic beverages."

FDA officials stressed they have not reached a conclusion about the safety of beverages like Joose and Charge. Instead, they are questioning the companies' legal rationale for marketing the products.

"There are some unusual safety questions raised by the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages," said FDA special adviser Mike Taylor. "So the burden is on the companies to provide evidence that supports the conclusion this use is safe."

"We're just grateful the FDA decided they need to put the burden back on these companies to prove that," Shurtleff said.

Larger brewers like Anheuser-Busch already have removed caffeine from their alcoholic energy drinks.

The drinks can't be found in Utah. Flavored malt beverages are no longer allowed at grocery stores; sales are confined to state liquor stores.

But a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it decided not to carry the alcoholic energy drinks in liquor stores along with the flavored malt beverages because it didn't like the combination of alcohol and caffeine.

"The problem with alcohol is it's a depressant," Shurtleff said. "The problem with adding caffeine and other stimulants to it is that you don't feel that way, you don't feel drunk."

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Story compiled with contributions from Andrew Adams and The Associated Press.

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