Klein continues to go after caffeinated booze

Law-abiding vendors are no longer selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages, but that doesn’t mean that the product is completely off the streets and out of the hands of youth.

That’s why on Wednesday, December 15, Senator Jeff Klein joined Manhattan Beer Distributors to destroy $350,000 worth of Joose, an alcoholic energy drink, that never made it to city stores.

“This product is still being sold on the Internet. Young people are still able to get access to these now illegal beverages. That’s why I’m here with a leader in the industry, who is taking the initiative and destroying these products,” Klein said before symbolically dumping the beverage from several of the bright green, blue and orange cans. “I think it’s big. They’re destroying this product and really putting an end to it.”

As of December 10, all stores in the state were required to stop selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages, such as Joose, Four Loko, MoonShot and Maxx Energy Drink.

However, in anticipation of the ban, the number of people selling the products illegally on the Internet skyrocketed. Teens and adults alike are able to purchase the products on sites like Craigslist.com and eBay.com, Klein said. He said it was no problem for his staffers to buy nine cans of Four Loko off the Internet, albeit at much higher prices than the drinks originally retailed for in local stores.

Destroying the inventory will be a big step towards getting the drinks off the internet as well as the streets, Klein said.

His office approached Manhattan Beer Distributors about the issue, and the company was more than happy to destroy the thousands of cans in inventory, though it meant eating the cost of the unsold product.

“It was the responsible thing to do,” said Alex Bergson, who’s family owns the distribution company. “When we took them on it was legal, but when the FDA came out and said it could potentially be dangerous, we decided to stop selling it. We haven’t been selling it for a month now.”

In mid-November, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration issued a warning to manufacturers that adding caffeine to a malt beverage is an unsafe food additive, and that alcoholic energy drinks are a public health concern that can’t stay on the market.

The controversy started in fall 2010, when college students around the country were being hospitalized after they drank too much of the caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

Since then, several states have moved to ban the drink outright and the drinks have been banned from numerous college campuses. Last month New York State Governor David A. Paterson came to an agreement with distributors that the drinks, which have been dubbed “black out in a can”, would no longer be sold here.

Senator Klein has led the charge to ban it in the state and has several bills pending in the state legislature. Because of the agreement, Klein said his bills are now more or less null and void, but he is still doing what he can to make sure the drinks are not peddled illegally.

“We need to put a end to this product, which is dangerous,” he said. “It is a forbidden fruit, and that’s why we have to destroy the supply.”

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