Charles Schumer asks FDA to block powdered alcohol

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, takes questions,

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, takes questions, Monday, April 28, 2014, in New York, after proposing a major retooling of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with seven reforms he says are needed to address the organization's dysfunction and bring it back to its core mission of focusing on critical transportation infrastructure on long-term regional economic development. (Credit: AP / Kathy Willens)

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Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban a new powdered alcohol product -- what he called the "Kool-Aid of teenage drinking" -- from hitting stores this fall.

Palcohol, which is being marketed as a substitute for popular mixed drinks like the Cosmopolitan and Mojito, is "dangerous," Schumer said Sunday, because it is easily concealable, can be mixed with water, sprinkled on food, or snorted.

Arizona-based Lipsmark LLC, which makes Palcohol, is awaiting final regulatory approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau -- which approved the product, but abruptly rescinded the approval the same day because of an issue with the amount of alcohol in each package. The company plans to resubmit the labels for final approval, but Schumer wants the FDA to block its production.

"You could walk into a concert or a ballpark . . . you could just put this in the sole of your shoe or your pocket," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday in an interview. "Almost every week there's a story of some teenagers being killed in some DWI accident."

"It is unfortunate that Sen. Schumer allowed himself to get caught up in the hysteria about powdered alcohol by making uninformed statements regarding Palcohol and asking for its ban," Mark Phillips, president of Lipsmark, said in an email. "Palcohol has many positive uses and shouldn't be banned. Rather it should be approved, taxed and regulated just like liquid alcohol."

In his letter to the FDA, Schumer said there is little research on the effects of ingesting powdered alcohol and warns it could have a "devastating effect on our youth." The letter cites a University of Colorado expert who said the product has a high risk of abuse and potential to appeal to children and teens.

Schumer said Palcohol's pending marketplace emergence echoes the same dangers as Four Loko, a caffeine-infused alcohol, which ceased production earlier this year after the FDA banned the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages and its manufacturer settled with attorney generals in 20 states, including New York.

Joshua Lafazan, 20, a member of the Syosset school board and the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, said the product will "certainly lead to many more instances of alcohol poisoning for youth."

He added, "When will we start putting the safety of our youth ahead of the business interests of the alcohol industry?"

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