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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Column: FDA gone Loko

If you’re over 21, put this paper down as soon as you finish this paragraph. No other story on this page is more important than this one. Now, put on your close-toed shoes and sprint to the Fast and Sleazy on B Street. Bring the debit card attached to your mom’s account and be prepared to empty her savings; today, big government is trying to take away the most essential part of your party experience, your Four Loko. So you’d better stock up like you’re preparing for the apocalypse. You can finish this article later online over a thirst-quenching, cranberry lemonade-flavored Four Loko. Savor it; if you don’t stockpile, it will be the last you ever enjoy. Ok, “enjoy” may be a bit strong. It will be the last you ever … have.

Welcome back. How did it go? Were there still any left on the shelves? Had a violent mob taken over the Sleaze yet?

Not yet? Good to hear. I’m glad you’re safe.

To you responsible readers who sprinted out of your classrooms to buy in bulk a beverage you were woefully unfamiliar with, I’m glad you made the right choice despite your ignorance. If you’d like to learn why this premium malt beverage is being removed from your shelves consider the following:

In 2005, three Ohio State alumni developed Four brand alcoholic energy drinks. Phusion Projects, LLC currently produces them in two different varieties, the availability of which depends on the state in which you live. Californians are best acquainted with the Loko variety, which contains 12 percent alcohol by volume and is most readily available in its 23.5-ounce size. There are many rumors as to what the “Four” represents. For years I thought it referred to each can being the approximate alcohol content of four beers. “Four” actually refers to the four main ingredients that also make this malt liquor beverage an energy drink: caffeine, taurine, guarana and wormwood (an essential ingredient in absinthe).

Four Loko, like the many similar drinks that preceded it, was designed to counteract the effects of alcohol’s suppressant nature; surely, if you can serve Red Bull vodkas or Jagerbombs over a bar’s countertop, they’d be fine in a giant can. Apparently, combining a suppressant and four stimulants can – in only the rarest of cases, I assure you – result in some dangerous and morally questionable situations. Some might even go so far as to call this mixture crazy (or, for my Spanish-speaking demographic, loco).

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is one such party. Today, after months of pressure from Sen. Schumer, the FDA will confirm the combination above unsafe, effectively banning all such products from the market. In an announcement on his federal website, the senator goes so far as to say that this should “serve as a warning to anyone who tries to peddle dangerous and toxic brews to our children; do it, and we will shut you down.”

What Sen. Schumer does in this argument against my sweet nectar is a logical flaw taught in most LSAT or formal logic classes called “distorting the point at issue;” the argument mis-describes the position of its opponent – turning the creators of an alcoholic energy drink for adults into poison peddling salesmen parked in your cousin’s elementary school playground – to make the opponent easier to attack. This was not some pedophile’s insidious plot to take advantage of our youth. It was a business opportunity to break into a market that American legislators have failed to prohibit for centuries.

However, as 21st century Americans, we’re used to political hyperbole, so if this flaw were the only issue with Four Loko’s opposition in Sen. Schumer, I’d consider letting it slide. However, by visiting a website like opensecrets.org, a “center for responsive politics,” you can take a gander at the 20 U.S. Senators who receive the most money from the traditional alcohol companies and their lobbies, the companies that compete with this popular alcoholic energy drink. Sen. Schumer received $142,000 in campaign contributions this campaign cycle from major alcohol brand names. This is more than double any other sitting senator.

This important statistic raises the question: Is Sen. Schumer actually concerned with our children, who are no more likely to drink one alcoholic drink than the next, or is he concerned with appeasing the special interests that got him re-elected by a two-to-one margin earlier this month?

Sen. Charles Schumer is ruining my party experience to prostitute himself to the traditional alcohol industry that got him elected. Now how’s that for political hyperbole?

JOSH ROTTMAN will be heading to the Sleaze and getting a little Loko at 8 p.m. tonight at the John Natsoulas Gallery (521 First St.) for the release of Nameless Magazine’s 2010 print issue. Reach him at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu.

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