Gansler asks health department to pull caffeine-infused alcoholic drinks from shelves

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler asked the state's health department Friday to remove all caffeine-infused alcoholic drinks from the state's liquor stores and taverns.

"I ask you to exercise your authority … to take all steps available to you to prevent any further distribution or sale of these unsafe, unadulterated, and mislabeled products wherever found in Maryland," Gansler wrote in a letter to John M. Colmers, the state's secretary of health and mental hygiene.


The move comes two days after Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot extracted an agreement from the state's alcohol wholesalers and retailers associations to stop selling the drinks, which are marketed as Four Loko and other brands. On the day Franchot announced the deal, the Food and Drug Administration gave drink makers 15 days to pull the products, and the manufacturer of Four Loko said it would remove caffeine from the drink.

Gansler says those actions still leave cases of the drinks on Maryland shelves, and he is concerned after reading news reports of young people hoarding the product with plans to binge drink.


"These products have been found to be unsafe, and rightly so," said Gansler, who joined 17 other attorneys general last year in asking that the FDA investigate the safety of the product.

"We just think there is no reason to leave them lingering on the shelves."

Health officials say the drinks, which have grown in popularity — and notoriety — since they first became widely available in 2002, are dangerous because the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, fooling consumers into thinking they are not drunk even after drinking large amounts.

The drink makers have a week and a half left to respond to the FDA, after which the federal agency can seize the products.