No more Four Loko for Kansas.
The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control notified liquor retailers Monday to pull the controversial caffeine-and-alcohol beverage — along with some competitors' similar but lesser-known drinks — from store shelves.
Initially, the department had said it would take an act of the Legislature to ban the beverages, which are already prohibited in several states.
But a recent decision by the federal Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the department to invoke its authority to immediately pull products that are deemed dangerous to consumers, said ABC spokeswoman Freda Warfield.
Kansas law "grants the director of alcoholic beverage control broad discretionary powers to govern the traffic of alcoholic liquor in such a manner as will promote the public health and welfare," ABC director Thomas Groneman wrote in a letter to liquor store owners.
"Based on the FDA's finding and general knowledge of the effects of caffeine and alcohol on the human body, I find that these alcoholic energy drinks do not promote the public health and welfare and must be withdrawn for sale in Kansas."
At least four other states have banned the caffeinated malt beverages.
The drinks came under fire after nine students at Central Washington University had to be hospitalized and a 19-year-old Michigan man suffered a heart attack after drinking the beverages.
Groneman's letter rescinds the department's approval and orders a recall of all flavors of four branded beverages: Four Loko, Four MaXed, Joose and Max.
Four Loko and Four MaXed are distributed by Phusion Products, a Chicago company started in 2005 by three college friends from Ohio State University.
Joose and Max are made by San Diego-based United Brands and were introduced in 2006.
Both companies have defended the caffeine-alcohol mix.
However, Phusion agreed Nov. 16 to remove the caffeine and other stimulants from future versions of its products.
Company officials declined to comment on the record on the Kansas ban, but issued a statement saying: "On Nov. 16, we stopped the nationwide production and shipment of all our alcoholic beverages containing caffeine, guarana and taurine. We're pleased that the FDA commended us for our decision to reformulate our products to remove these ingredients."
In an earlier news release, the company said it was taking the stimulants out "after trying — unsuccessfully — to navigate a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels."
"We have repeatedly contended — and still believe, as do many people throughout the country — that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe," said the statement by Phusion's co-founders and managing partners, Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright and Jaisen Freeman.
"If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees that have been consumed safely and responsibly for years would face the same scrutiny that our products have recently faced."
In an e-mail reply to Eagle questions, United Brands CEO and president Michael Michail said the company is reformulating its drinks.
A new version, which will meet the "re-interpreted FDA guidelines," will be available "as soon as possible," he said.
"Regarding the future of Joose and United Brands, we strongly believe that from adversity, comes innovation," Michail said.
Last week, the company took issue with the FDA labeling its product as dangerous.
He said the company knows of no one who was injured by its product.
Competing products made by beer titans Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co. have already been decaffeinated.
In justifying a ban in the state of Washington, officials said the caffeinated malt beverages differ from traditional coffee-containing drinks because they are much stronger and targeted at a younger, less-mature drinking population.
Four Loko and Joose are sold in brightly colored, 23.5-ounce, nonresealable cans.
Each can contains the alcohol content of about a bottle of wine.
Regulators say the high concentration of caffeine — roughly the equivalent of three cups of coffee — masks some of the depressant effect of the alcohol, so that users consume more and are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as drunken driving.