This tragedy has highlighted the dangers of consuming caffeinated alcohol drinks such as Four Loko, which police indicate the defendant driver was drinking prior to the accident. The defendant driver has pled guilty to four counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter and one additional count of driving under the influence with serious bodily injury. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 20th.
The police say that the defendant was driving his vehicle at approximately 80 mph, ran a red light and crashed into the victim’s Ford Fusion. The accident killed the driver and his three adult male sons. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and told police investigators that prior to the crash he had smoked marijuana and had alcohol mixed with Four Loko. His blood tests revealed that his blood-alcohol level was 0.154 percent. In Florida, an operator of a motor vehicle is considered legally intoxicated at 0.08.
A search on Wikipedia reveals that Four Loko was first introduced into the market in the U.S. in 2005. It is currently marketed in 48 states, and Canada and Europe. The name “Four” comes from the energy drink’s four main ingredients: caffeine, alcohol, caffeine, guarana and taurine.
The Food and Drug Administration in November 2010 sent a warning letter to the manufacturer of Four Loko and as well as to other manufacturers of caffeinated alcohol beverages stating that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive” and said that the federal government could take action which included seizure of their products. It stated that drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine such as Four Loko, are a “public health concern” and could not remain on market in their current formulation. The Food and Drug Administration also indicated that concerns have been raised that caffeine can hide some of the sensory cues that people might normally depend on to determine whether they are intoxicated or not.