Iowa is part of an agreement where a Chicago-based company will change the way it markets a malt beverage called “Four Loko.” Geoff Greenwood is a spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office. “We’ve had concerns for several years about Four Loko. It started when the product emerged as a very high-quantity fruity malt beverage product infused with a high amount of caffeine,” Greenwood says.
State and federal officials went after the manufacturer of the drink, Phusion, four years ago and got it to drop the caffeine from the drink.”Since 2010, Phusion has ceased selling the caffeine version of Four Loko,” Greenwood says, “however it has still been marketing Four Loko as high alcohol content beverage with fruity flavors. It’s really been marketed to young people, and the message is you can grab a can of this thing — chug it down — and you’ll be okay.”
Greenwood says that message is wrong, as chugging the product is a dangerous way to use alcohol. The company has agreed with Iowa and Attorneys General from 19 other states and the city of San Francisco, to not market the product to young people. “We’re telling the company through this agreement that ‘you can’t do that anymore,’ and the company has agreed,” Greenwood says. He says the agreement serves as a warning to other drink makers. “It also sends a message to some of these other companies, ‘don’t think about marketing the same way that Phusion did with its Four Loko product, because we’ll go after you’,” Greenwood says.
Phusion denied the allegations, but agreed to pay $400,000s, including about $18,000 to Iowa’s Consumer Education and Litigation Fund.
Here are the provisions of the agreement. Phusion agrees not to:
· Promote binge drinking, drinking while driving, consuming an alcoholic beverage by means of a rapid ingestion technique or device, or underage drinking;
· Promote to consumers, wholesalers, distributers, or marketers mixing its flavored malt beverages with products containing caffeine;
· Sell, offer for sale, distribute or promote alcoholic products to underage persons;
· Hire underage persons, or actors under the age of 25, to promote alcohol products;
· Hire models or actors for its promotional materials that are under the age of 25 or that appear to be under the age of 21;
· Promote flavored malt beverages on school or college property, except at retail establishments licensed to sell alcoholic products;
· Use names, initials, logos, or mascots of any school, college, university, student organization, sorority, or fraternity in Phusion’s promotional materials for its alcohol products; or
· Distribute, sell, provide or promote merchandise bearing the brand name or logo of flavored malt beverages to underage persons.
Additionally, Phusion has also agrees to:
· Prevent the posting of, and promptly remove, from its websites and social media any postings that depict or describe the consumption of its caffeinated alcohol beverages, the mixing of its flavored malt beverages with products containing caffeine, or the misuse of alcohol;
· Inform distributors and retailers that its flavored malt beverages contain alcohol;
· Advise retailers to display its flavored malt beverages separate and apart from non-alcoholic products; and
· Pay the state attorneys general that are signatories to the settlement and the city attorney of San Francisco $400,000.00.