I just recently came across a few news articles about college students in the United States consuming alcoholic energy drinks and became hospitalized. Many people go to a bar and ask for a Red Bull & Vodka or Jaggerbombs, so you figure mixing energy drinks with alcohol is no big deal. The students were drinking Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink with 12% alcohol added to the regular amount of caffeine in an energy drink. 12% alcohol is equal to drinking 3-5 beers, but the effects of this depressant are inhibited by the caffeine, causing inexperienced consumers not to realize that they have reached their alcohol limit.
So what about Canada – are alcoholic energy drinks approved here? The simple answer is no; Health Canada does not approve of the selling of premixed alcoholic energy drinks. Taking an approved energy drink (ie. Red Bull), adding alcohol to it, and then offering the mixed beverage for sale is not allowed. Despite Health Canada saying that premixed alcoholic energy drinks are not approved, consumers can walk into their local alcohol store and buy a Rockstar Vodka or a few select alcoholic energy drinks for the same price as a regular energy drink. Why is this the case?
Apparently, a loophole exists that allows for certain beverages to be sold despite containing alcohol as part of the energy drink. For example, the caffeine portion of an energy drink is from a natural ingredient (taurine, guarana, yerba mate, etc) essential to the beverage, so it is permitted. Premixed variations of rum and cola are also allowed since the caffeine component is derived from the cola and not the alcoholic portion of the beverage.
It might reassure you to know that Health Canada is already conducting reviews on this issue, working to limit the exposure of these drinks to consumers. The review asks for manufacturers to prove their their beverage’s contents of alcohol and caffeine is safe for consumer. The review won’t be finalized nor publicized until March 2011, so be selective in the alcoholic energy drinks you consume (if you choose to consume one at all)!