Going Loko

Federal regulators — acting on the behest of several grandstanding politicians — moved quickly this week to protect the American public from the latest overhyped scare of the moment: caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday sent warning letters to four beverage manufacturers, saying that caffeine added to their alcoholic drinks is an “unsafe food additive.”

This latest regulatory overreach comes after nine female freshmen at a small Washington college were hospitalized last month after consuming something called Four Loko, a caffeinated drink with an alcohol content of 12 percent.

“This drink was deceptively dangerous,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who doubles as a general for the Nanny State. “It was growing in popularity. The number of deaths and injuries was growing.”

USA Today breathlessly noted that “police reported two accidents Sunday involving Four Loko,” one leading to the death of a 14-year-old female passenger in a car driven by a Texas teenager who had consumed five Four Lokos, the other featuring an 18-year-old Arizona girl who drove into a house after playing beer pong with Four Loko.

My goodness, this stuff is just wreaking havoc across the land! Hi-ho Silver, away FDA!

Yes, it’s vital to keep alcoholic beverages away from minors. Those who sell or provide such products to youngsters deserve the full brunt of the law.

But does an outright ban on these drinks really make sense? FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg argues that the consumption of these drinks has led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults. Can’t the same be said for Budweiser? Jack Daniels? Where’s Carrie Nation when you need her? Oh, that’s right. She died in the loony bin.

And then there’s the allegation that the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks creates a public health concern. Really? Does the FDA propose to outlaw the Red Bull and vodka cocktail so popular in clubs with the twentysomething set? If mixing caffeine and alcohol presents such a pressing public health concern, will Sen. Schumer and his FDA minions soon turn their sights to those who enjoy rum and coke or Irish coffee?

Probably not. Which is an indication that this latest panic is simply another example of the regulatory state run amok.

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