texas
3:33 pm
Mon November 15, 2010

Car Crash in North Texas Being Linked to Four Loko

The national hysteria over the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko is reaching a fever pitch with bans looming or already enacted in Boston, New York, Michigan, Washington state, and Pennsylvania.

Now there's speculation that the controversial drink may have been consumed by the driver of an SUV that crashed and killed a 14-year-old girl in North Texas, reports My Fox Dallas-Fort Worth:

Police say they found a 12-pack of beer and five cans of "Four Loko" in the crashed Chevy Trailblazer that killed Valeria Rodriguez of Arlington, Texas.

Rodriguez died early Sunday morning when police say her boyfriend, also 14, took his parents' SUV without permission.

The company that owns Four Loko, Chicago-based Phusion Projects, has pointed to the fact that any alcoholic beverage consumed in excess can lead to hospitalization, deadly car wrecks or just plain bad decisions. In response to one of the most notorious Four Loko incidents, the company issued this statement:

Making college campuses safe and healthy environments for learning is a goal we share with administrators – even those who have chosen to ban our products. However, we also know that curbing alcohol abuse on college campuses will not be accomplished by singling out a lone product or beverage category.

The controversy of Four Loko stems from its high alcohol content (12 percent) coupled with the heavy dose of caffeine it provides. It's relatively low price (about $3 per 750 ml can) and its sweet soda pop flavor have made it a favorite among college students and other people more concerned with how drunk they get than how sophisticated they look drinking it. The FDA says it's already looking into the safety of Four Loko and almost 30 other similar beverages.      

Update at 4:38 p.m.:  Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission spokesperson Carolyn Beck says the Four Loko controversy is on their radar, and that administrators are looking at whether they even have the power to implement a ban, should they decide to enact one.

"It is something that we have been discussing and are continuing to discuss," Beck told KUT News. "There are a a lot of questions we need to continue to work out including what we as an agency have the authority to do, and what can only be done through the legislature." Beck suggested lawmakers could decide to take up the issue during their upcoming legislative session, if they deemed Four Loko a serious health hazard.

Complicating the regulatory playing field is the fact that Four Loko is not the only caffeinated alcoholic beverage on the market. Even if all caffeinated alcoholic beverages were banned, young people could still mix their own concoctions, like vodka and Red Bull or even rum and Coke.

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