In the Doghouse

Four Loko Frat Boys Spanked by FTC

February 21, 2013

four loko founders01Phusion Projects is by no means new to the Doghouse - the company's been put in here several times before for its deceptive marketingyouth-oriented approach, and avoidance of regulators (let's not forget its harmful caffeinated alcohol products). Last week, Phusion was reprimanded by the FTC for "falsely claiming that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contains the alcohol equivalent of one or two regular 12-ounce beers, and that a consumer could drink one entire can safely on a single occasion."
The FTC ruling gives Phusion six months to put an Alcohol Facts panel showing the container size, percentage alcohol by volume, number of servings in the container, and serving size in fluid ounces, on containers of Four Loko and any other flavored malt beverage containing more than two servings of alcohol. Phusion also has to make resealable containers for any of its products that contain more than two and a half servings of alcohol (something Phusion said it would do back when the agreement was originally proposed in 2011, but hasn't since implemented without a little push from the FTC). 
Accurate labels on all alcoholic beverages - beer, wine, spirits, and alcopops alike - should have been placed on the containers decades ago. Resealable containers are barely a bandage on a much larger wound - there is no evidence that resealable containers of youth-oriented, high-ABV alcopops will discourage dangerous binge drinking and the harm that results. These two steps won't get these deadly products off the shelves of convenience, grocery, and neighborhood corner stores. Phusion will still produce supersized products that contain extreme amounts of alcohol per container and are clearly designed to be bright, exciting, and attractive to kids. 
Despite the action taken by the FTC, more meaningful change is still necessary for Phusion, other alcopops producers, and the rest of the industry. Diageo hailed the FTC ruling immediately after the story broke, with Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) following along in agreement. When Diageo North America EVP Guy L. Smith - the guy who coined the term "serial alcophobe" to insult professionals who advocate for population-based alcohol policy that actually reduces alcohol-related harm - hails a decision, it doesn't bode well for public health.