A year after it began reviewing whether energy drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine are safe or legal, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a stand on the drinks as soon as Wednesday, according to law enforcement officials in several states.
The agency declined to say what it would do, but severallawyers who once worked for it said a likely option was to use warning letters to inform manufacturers that the drinks were adulterated and, therefore, not safe.
With new reports of young people falling ill or dying after drinking the potent blends of alcohol and caffeine, state and federal regulators have been pressured to address the matter. Several states have moved to ban the drinks on their own, and this weekend New York’s largest beer distributors agreed to stop delivering caffeinated alcoholic beverages to retailers by Dec. 10. Some state officials, meanwhile, have criticized the F.D.A. for not completing its review sooner.
“To be very blunt, there’s just no excuse for the delay in applying standards that clearly should bar this kind of witch’s brew,” said Senator-elect, Democrat of Connecticut, who as the state’s attorney general has led a campaign against the drinks.
At issue for the F.D.A. is whether adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages is “generally regarded as safe,” an agency designation that requires accepted scientific evidence.
Asked about the status of the F.D.A.’s review, Beth Martino, a spokeswoman for the agency, said only that it was continuing. “We’re taking a careful and thorough look at the science and the safety of these products,” Ms. Martino said.
Four Loko, the top-selling caffeinated alcoholic drink, has been blamed for several deaths over the last several months, a period during which the brand’s availability spread to all but three states. In August, an 18-year-old in Palm Coast, Fla., died after drinking Four Loko in combination with diet pills. The following month, a 20-year-old in Tallahassee, Fla., started playing with a gun and fatally shot himself after drinking several cans of Four Loko over a number of hours.
The drink, sold in fruit flavors like blue raspberry and lemon-lime, has an alcohol content of 12 percent and includes as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. It is sold in 23.5-ounce cans.
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