Health Canada Restricts Alcohol Amount In Sugary, Caffeinated Premixed Drinks
Health Canada takes steps to restrict amount of alcohol allowed in potent sugary, caffeinated premixed beverages. The agency says these products are becoming a growing risk to public health, especially for young people.
These drinks can contain up to four times the standard amount of alcohol per container, yet do not taste like alcohol, because the alcohol base is purified, flavoured, and often very sweet,” the Canadian government agency stated in a news release.
The proposed amendments to the country’s Food and Drug Regulations would help protect youth from over-consumption that could lead to alcohol poisoning and death, Health Canada said.
The changes would mean that the number of servings of alcohol permitted in one container would be reduced. Any container under a litre could not contain more than 1.5 servings of alcohol under the new amendments. That means they must contain 25.6 millilitres or less of alcohol. Right now, a can of 568 millilitres of flavoured, purified alcohol could contain up to 11.9% alcohol, the equivalent of four alcoholic drinks. Under the new regulation, a drink of the same size could not contain more than 4.5% alcohol by volume, Health Canada said. But the amendments would not apply to alcohol sold in glass bottles of 750 millilitres or more, since those drinks are considered to contain several portions.
Health Canada expects the new regulations to come into effect by spring of 2019, after a consultation period.
In March, Quebec moved to ban the sale of premixed malt-based beverages containing more than 7% alcohol from anywhere other than the provincial liquor stores. That decision came two weeks after Montreal-area teenager Athena Gervais died after she reportedly consumed an 11.9% alcohol malt-liquor drink called FCKED UP on her school lunch break. The company that produces FCKD UP has since halted production, but other similar beverages are still on the market in the province.
Sugary, high-alcohol beverages also played a role in the death of 30-year-old Drummondville, Que., resident Pierre Parent last Christmas Day, when he combined two Four Loko drinks, which had an alcohol content of 11.9%, with caffeine and cold medicine, according to a coroner’s report released in August.
Already in 2010, 8 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States told the manufacturers of seven caffeinated alcoholic beverages that their products were a “public health concern” and could not stay on the market in their current form, as CNN reported Experts had concluded the caffeine used in the beverages could mask the effects of alcohol, leaving consumers unaware of how intoxicated they were.
… there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, FDA’s principal deputy commissioner had said at the time.
One of the companies that received FDA warning letters was Phusion Projects, of Chicago, Illinois, which makes Four Loko (also known as “blackout in a can” among consumers). The company announced in response that it was dropping caffeine and two other ingredients, guarana and taurine, from Four Loko in the face of “a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment.”
The FDA had begun its investigation in November 2009, after complaints from officials in several U.S. federal states. The issue received attention when nine underage students at Central Washington University were hospitalized after drinking Four Loko, in October 2009.
In Quebec in 2017, Emergency Room doctors had already warned about alcohol potent sugary, caffeinated premixed beverages. A Montreal ER doctor, Robert Foxford, said the makers of high-alcohol content premixed beverages such as FCKD UP cross ethical boundaries by marketing to young people.
They come in with alcohol doses that are through the roof,” Foxford, an emergency medicine specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
They’re comatose; they have no idea what they’ve done.”
It is tragic that over so many years and with so many incidents along the way students still had to die from consuming these drinks – and action does still not seem strict enough.