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Four Loko must change 'deceptive advertising,' FTC says

October 03, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Cans of Four Loko will be getting a new label.
Cans of Four Loko will be getting a new label. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

The erstwhile-caffeinated alcoholic drink Four Loko will now have to make another adjustment in order to settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission of deceptive advertising.

Drink maker Phusion Projects claimed that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko (with 11% or 12% alcohol) contained as much alcohol as one or two 12-ounce beers, the FTC alleged, and that a person could safely drink a whole Four Loko can at one time. They want a label that will make it clear that a whole can of the stuff has about as much alcohol as four or five beers.

This isn't the only time the beverage has found itself in hot water; last year the company took caffeine, a signature ingredient, out of the mix. Several states had banned the drinks last year after college students in multiple incidents were sickened.

From the exhibits posted by the FTC, it's not entirely clear to me that Four Loko was ever explicitly marketed as being equivalent to one or two beers. But there are plenty of implied references to it being a single-serving drink, which, with a quick bit of mental math, could be seen as a little iffy.

A typical 12-ounce beer has 5% alcohol. At 11% to 12%, Four Loko has about double that. So take two beers and multiply that by two (because a 23.5-ounce Four Loko can is about twice the volume of liquid as that beer can) and you've got a total of four (count 'em!) beers for a single can of Four Loko.

That's basically what the new label is going to say, according to an agreement reached by Phusion Projects and the FTC. (To be precise: They're suggesting the label say 4.5 beers.)

Company officials still maintain there weren't any violations and that they "don't share the FTC's perspective."

Regardless, both parties seem to agree on one thing: Keeping consumers informed is the priority here. At least now Four Loko drinkers will know exactly what they're signing up for -- although, with a drink once nicknamed "blackout in a can," it's quite possible they already did.  

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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