Four Loko, the high-octane alcoholic beverage favored on college campuses, is again under fire.
Michigan announced Thursday that it is banning alcoholic caffeinated drinks like Four Loko, which is produced by Chicago-based Phusion Projects and has been singled out for criticism by health experts. A day earlier, members of Chicago's City Council proposed their own ban on energy drinks that contain alcohol.
Washington and New Jersey being hospitalized after drinking Four Loko. Manufacturers will have 30 days to pull the banned products.
Phusion Projects said Four Loko contains 12 percent alcohol and a 23.5-ounce can packs about as much caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee. Critics, including some physicians and public health professionals, say the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, making young consumers unaware of their level of intoxication so they continue to drink to excess.
But Phusion Projects makes the case that consumers have been mixing alcohol and caffeine for years in such drinks as Red Bull and vodka and rum and cola.
Phusion complained in a statement Thursday that Michigan's liquor commission did not provide advance notice of its proposed action and "did not give parties who will be affected by the ban any opportunity to be heard on whether the ban is warranted or authorized by law." The company said it intends to challenge the action.
Michigan appears to be the only state to ban such beverages, but the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Commission recently asked its licensed sellers to voluntarily stop selling and promoting alcoholic energy drinks such as Four Loko.
In Chicago, Alds. Edward Burke, 14th, and Gene Schulter, 47th, at a City Council meeting Wednesday proposed a citywide ban of premixed alcoholic caffeinated drinks, claiming the drinks are dangerous for young adults who might not realize their negative effects.
"We're disappointed by the recent call to ban our product from being sold in Chicago, where our company is headquartered, because we know curbing alcohol abuse will not be accomplished by singling out a lone product or beverage category," Phusion Projects said in a statement Thursday.
In response to Michigan's ban, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission said the General Assembly has not given the commission authority to ban such products.
"We are certainly watching carefully at what local governments are doing, and if the General Assembly were to change the law and ban them, we would certainly enforce it," said Sue Hofer, commission spokeswoman.
Tribune wires contributed to this report.