CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw and 35 state attorneys general and legal officers are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take "swift, forceful action" against Phusion Projects for its deceptive marketing of Four Loko, a flavored, high-alcohol malt beverage alleged to promote dangerous binge drinking.
In their letter to the FTC Secretary Donald Clark, the attorneys general point out that Four Loko, a "disarmingly sweet fruit-flavored product in brightly colored ready-to-drink containers," is sold in oversized 23.5-ounce cans as a single serving but has an alcohol content actually equal to 4.7 servings.
"Consuming just one can of Four Loko constitutes binge drinking, defined as excessive alcohol consumption on a single occasion," a press release from McGraw's office says.
The FTC's complaint against Phusion states the company falsely represents that drinking one Four Loko is equivalent to one or two regular 12-ounce beers. According to the FTC, "an individual cannot safely consume" an entire can of Four Loko, with its alcohol content of up to 12 percent, on a single occasion.
Among other calls for action, McGraw and the attorneys general requested that the FTC order Phusion to halt their deceptive advertising of Loko Four and to limit flavored malt beverage containers to two servings of alcohol.
"The marketing of these high-alcohol beverages encourages young people to consume the entire large container in one sitting," McGraw said in the press release. "Not only can binge drinking lead to dangerous health and other consequences for the individual, it also inflicts huge economic costs on our society."
McGraw's release says binge drinking accounts for more than half of the country's 79,000 annual alcohol-related deaths and increases the chances of motor vehicle crashes, violence, HIV and sexually transmitted disease, and unplanned pregnancy.
According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States in 2006 reached $223.5 billion -- or about $1.90 per drink. Three-quarters of this cost resulted from binge drinking.
In 2010, responding to complaints from colleges and other institutions, the Food and Drug Administration forced Phusion to remove caffeine and other stimulants from Four Loko, which was originally marketed as an alcoholic energy drink that came in eight fruity flavors.