AG Gansler Urges FTC to Limit Alcohol Servings for "Binge-in-a-Can"
"Single-serving" marketing of Phusion's Four Loko called deceptive
MD ( Nov. 16, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to limit the actual servings of alcohol sold in "Four Loko" to two, rather than the nearly five servings the product contains. Attorney General Gansler, along with 34 other Attorneys General and the San Francisco City Attorney, stated their position in comments filed today in response to the Federal Trade Commission's proposed settlement with Phusion Projects, LLC regarding its deceptive marketing of the flavored malt beverage "Four Loko" in super-sized, 12% alcohol by volume (ABV)/23.5 ounce cans.
"We pay an unacceptable price - in lives and dollars - for excessive alcohol consumption by the young and old alike," said Attorney General Gansler. "These 'binge-in-a-can' products multiply such dangers, especially for young people. I am pleased that the FTC is seeking to debunk the dangerous fiction promoted by the 'single-serving' sales pitch that anyone can safely drink a super-sized can of these disarmingly sweet, fruit-flavored, high-alcohol products on a single occasion."
Attorney General Gansler commended the FTC for recognizing that Phusion's marketing of these super-sized drinks as single servings - i.e., that they can be safely consumed on a single occasion - is misleading. A single can of Four Loko contains the alcohol equivalent of almost five beers. Drinking one can of Four Loko, often referred to as a "binge-in-a-can," thus constitutes a dangerous "binge drinking" episode. At the same time, Attorney General Gansler called on the FTC to adopt additional measures to address the safety risks presented by Four Loko, such as limiting its alcohol content to no more than two servings of alcohol per can.
The FTC has charged Phusion with violating federal law by making false or misleading representations that a 23.5 ounce can of 12% alcohol Four Loko can be safely consumed on a single occasion and by failing to disclose the number of alcohol servings in one can. To resolve these charges, the proposed settlement requires, for containers with more than 2.5 servings of alcohol, that Phusion disclose on the label the equivalent number of regular beers and make the containers resealable. It does not, however, limit the number of alcohol servings per can.
The attorneys general expressed concern that the FTC's proposed disclosure and resealability requirements alone likely will not cure the single serve aspects of Four Loko and other flavored malt beverages sold in individual 23.5 ounce cans and displayed in self-serve coolers. For this reason, the attorneys general urged the FTC to amend the agreement to limit the total amount of alcohol per "single-serving" container of Four Loko to two standard drinks, irrespective of other requirements.
As the FTC's proposed order would make Four Loko the first and only alcoholic beverage to display the number of servings, the attorneys general also called upon the FTC to enlist public health researchers to study the impact of its new requirements, particularly on young persons.
A copy of the comments filed with the FTC can be found here: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/4loko_letter.pdf .