Cocaine buzz may be short-lived

An energy drink said by its makers to be 3.5 times stronger than market leader Red Bull is gaining attention for its provocative brand name — Cocaine — and the manner in which it is being marketed as "a legal alternative" to that banned narcotic. However, food industry sources have questioned its legality and predicted its imminent prohibition.

A can of Cocaine contains more than 30 mg of caffeine per ounce, as well as dextrose, guarana, the amino acid taurine and a vitamin cocktail that combine to give a "five-hour buzz" without a "crash."

Cocaine has been launched in select markets such as Los Angeles, New York and Australia and is squarely aimed at young revellers who may be interested in the drink's self-proclaimed energy-boosting claims.

The product's moniker and marketing has drawn mainstream media interest including a US NBC prime time television interview with inventor Jamey Kirby, who is also the owner of the company behind it, Las Vegas-based Redux Beverages. Redux has also established a MySpace website to spread the word among its target market of 18-to-30 year-olds.

The Cocaine website references drug culture terminology, suggests alcoholic cocktails such as "Cocaine Snort" and "Cocaine Blast," and the effects of the product are described in a drug-like manner. One tongue-in-cheek Web notice states: "Warning — this beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, fun and possible feeling of euphoria."

The website also enquires of potential consumers: "The question you have to ask yourself is: Can I handle the rush?"

Kirby said an ingredient, which he declined to name, had even been added to the drink to mimic the throat-numbing sensation cocaine use can cause.

However, Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific affairs at the Washington DC-based Natural Products Association, said he hoped the Food and Drug Administration "would act extremely quickly to remove this product from the market.

"There are a wide variety of legal issues with this product, none more so than the name," he told FF&N. "You can't name a food product after an illegal drug, to start. The dosage levels of some of the ingredients may also raise regulator eyebrows as will [Redux'] marketing. This is the kind of product that gives the whole industry a bad name and attracts criticism to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)."

The beverage has been labelled as a dietary supplement. Last week, an FDA official announced that the agency is undertaking development of a new policy to review the regulatory status of beverages labeled and sold as dietary supplements, said Loren Israelsen, president of LDI Group, a Utah-based dietary supplements consulting firm. "The implications are very significant. Many beverage products are labeled and sold as dietary supplements in order to enjoy the benefits provided by DSHEA. One of FDA's principal tools to limit the scope and value of DSHEA is to redefine the term 'dietary supplement,'" Israelsen said. "Should FDA attempt to cut out beverage products, this would have a significant impact on the functional beverage market and certainly would create a chilling effect in this fast growing sector."

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