* Four Loko to pull caffeine from alcoholic energy drinks
* Warning expected from FDA, FTC
By Martinne Geller
NEW YORK, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The maker of controversial alcoholic energy drink Four Loko said it would remove caffeine and other stimulants from all of its beverages ahead of an expected crackdown by U.S. regulators.
Chicago-based Phusion Projects said late on Tuesday that it planned to reformulate its Four Loko drinks to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine.
“We are taking this step after trying — unsuccessfully — to navigate a difficult and politically charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels,” Phusion’s three co-founders and managing partners said in a statement on the company’s website.
The news came just after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, planned to warn manufacturers that adding caffeine to alcoholic drinks is unsafe and to caution them against selling such products, often called “blackout in a can.” [ID:nN16154911]
The FDA and other agencies plan to announce results of a review on caffeinated alcoholic drinks at 1 p.m. ET.
“Blackout in a can” drinks have grabbed headlines across the country in recent weeks after nine college students in Washington state were hospitalized after drinking quantities of Four Loko and similar beverages off-campus.
Health experts say mixing alcohol and caffeine is dangerous because the stimulant masks the effects of the alcohol, allowing people to continue drinking long after they would have otherwise stopped.
Four Loko, which comes in fruit flavors and brightly colored cans, is 12 percent alcohol. That means that one 23.5-ounce can is comparable to drinking five or six beers.
Major brewers, including Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, stopped making drinks mixing alcohol and caffeine in 2008 amid pressure from state authorities, but smaller companies have filled the gap.
Anheuser is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), and MillerCoors consists of the combined U.S. operations of SABMiller SAB.L and Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N). (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)