Sen. Charles Schumer criticized the Food and Drug Administration Monday for refusing to investigate the health risks of Palcohol, a powdered alcohol mix that is expected to hit stores next month.
Schumer said he plans to introduce federal legislation to ban the product's sale. He has said it would encourage more teenage drinking. In the meantime, he called on store owners to keep it off their shelves voluntarily.
"Please join our effort to keep Palcohol and other forms of powdered alcohol out of stores and out of our communities," said Schumer (D-N.Y.), in letters to the state Liquor Store Association and the Metro Package Store Association. Neither association returned telephone calls for comment Monday.
Schumer released copies of the letters during a news conference in Hicksville with leaders of the Family and Children's Association Hicksville Counseling and Resource Center.
"Powdered alcohol is a disturbing concept and will only make it easier for minors on Long Island to access, conceal and abuse alcohol," Schumer said.
"We simply can't sit back and wait for Palcohol to hit store shelves and possibly be to blame for more alcoholic-related hospitalizations -- and, God forbid, deaths -- and that's why I'm pursuing all possible avenues to stop the sale of this Kool-Aid for underage binge drinking," he said.
The FDA said in a letter to Schumer in June that it has no authority over alcoholic beverages and it found no problems in its review of the nonalcoholic ingredients in Palcohol.
"At this time we do not have legal basis to block market entry of this product," the agency wrote.
Palcohol referred questions about the product to its website, which said banning it was "the wrong approach. Palcohol should be approved, taxed and regulated just like liquid alcohol."
It said the sale of Palcohol was covered by the same rules as other liquors and buyers would have to be at least 21 years old.
A 21-year recovering alcoholic standing next to the senator at the treatment center was asked what his reaction would have been if the product was available when he started drinking at 12 years old.
"Jackpot," said James Healion of Centerport. "That's the first thing that comes to my mind. It would have made it much easier for me."