Four Loko cans line the shelf at a liquor store. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro file photo
The company that makes the controversial alcohol drink Four Loko agreed to a multi-state settlement over allegations of deceptive marketing practices and will now pay $400,000, it was announced on Tuesday.
Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania were three of the 19 states, as well as the City of San Francisco, who took part in the settlement with Phusion Products, LLC, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office.
The attorneys general of those states accused Phusion of unlawfully marketing the flavored malt beverage, as well as promoting the misuse of alcohol by underage consumers and failing to disclose the effects of drinking alcoholic beverages combined with caffeine.
Four Loko, in its original form, came in multiple flavors and combined caffeine and alcohol in 23-ounce cans. It gained popularity in 2010, especially among college students, but quickly became the target of authorities when it was blamed for sickening and even killing some consumers. The company eventually changed the make up of the drink and removed the caffeine. The owners spoke out, saying they were made to be "bad guys."
"Binge drinking and underage drinking are public health concerns, and it is essential that companies market their products responsibly, particularly when they are selling alcoholic products that may appeal to minors," Coakley said in a statement. "We are pleased that the company will improve the marketing and promotion of its flavored malt beverages to prevent dangerous drinking behaviors."
Besides the payment, Phusion must also reform how it markets and promotes its products, according to the settlement. The company is prohibited from promoting the misuse of alcohol, promoting the mixing of flavored malt beverages with products containing caffeine, hiring underage persons to promote alcohol products and other marketing tools.