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Phusion Projects, LLC, which makes the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko — known to college students as “blackout in a can” — has suddenly gotten “serious” about alcohol abuse and underage drinking on college campuses.
On Nov. 4, company founders sent a letter to about 300 college presidents, deans, and alcohol counselors with information about its products. They offered to help subsidize alcohol education programming, and sought to work with college representatives to address alcohol abuse and underage drinking, which they described as ?both a fundamental priority and an ultimate responsibility that we share with the entire alcoholic beverage industry.?
Their letter wouldn’t have anything to do with a recent media firestorm over alcoholic energy drinks (CBS went so far as to label them ?liquid cocaine?), or the fact that drinks like Four Loko were blamed for sending multiple college students in more than one state to the hospital, would it?
Maybe a little.
Phusion?s founders state in their letter that they’ve been ?late to the game in publicly addressing some of the criticisms of our products.? Why? Because they were too busy: ?It?s merely a function of a growing, small business learning how to communicate effectively and openly, while at the same time managing all the other aspects of running a business.?
Hmm. I can see how there might be more important things to do than deal with coast-to-coast negative press.
And about that “communicating effectively and openly” business: check out Brandchannel’s exposure of Phusion?s dubious claims that it did not participate in social media to promote its products, and Austin Carr?s interview with one of Phusion Projects? founders, Chris Hunter, who was revealingly evasive.
But Phusion’s founders may be fighting a holding action at best. A handful of states have taken action against alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the safety of the products.
“It is FDA’s position that these type (caffeinated-alcohol) of beverages are not ’generally recognised as safe’ (GRAS) and therefore we have concerns about their safety and legality,” an FDA spokeperson said on just-drinks.com, a beverage industry website.
“Since the FDA is unaware of the basis by which manufacturers conclude these type of beverages are [generally recognized as safe], we have asked them to provide evidence.” He added, “We are going through that review process right now.”
Which gets to the heart of the matter. Carr put it best when he asked, “Is it even possible to drink Four Loko responsibly?”