(by Jessica Firger, CBS News) – …Palcohol is freeze-dried alcohol in powder form, packaged in small packets that promises an easy way to take an alcoholic drink on the go. Some health experts are concerned it could be easily misused or abused, with potentially dangerous consequences.
Palcohol’s labels were approved by regulators at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) [in early April], before that decision was abruptly rescinded [canceled; revoked]. On [April 21st] a spokesperson from the agency told CBS News that the approvals were “issued in error.”
Despite [the reversal], Palcohol may still hit the market later this year. Regulators say they will reevaluate how much powder is in the packets and therefore the volume of alcohol each packet contains. Palcohol will need to resubmit the proposed labels to ensure the contents are explained clearly so consumers don’t abuse or misuse the product.
The risk of abuse is high, experts say. The convenience of the packets could encourage over-consumption of alcohol, as well as accidents caused by intoxication, such as drunken driving.
Dr. Kennon Heard, an ER doctor and medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado, told CBS News that because Palcohol is a new product there’s a risk for inadvertent misuse by people unfamiliar with its potency.
“The other potential is that given the flavors it comes in, there’s the potential for it to be very appealing to small children,” he said. The makers of Palcohol say the powders will be available to taste like cocktails such as a cosmopolitan and margarita.
As a doctor of emergency medicine, Heard has observed the repercussions of misuse of a number of novel intoxicating products. “We had this episode a few years ago with fortified sweet alcohol drinks,” he said of Four Loko, an alcoholic beverage that also contains caffeine. “Younger people who did not know the products were drinking them and getting intoxicated much faster.” The Food and Drug Administration later issued a warning, and eventually banned the beverages.
There have also recently been a number of recent cases involving overdosing on edible marijuana, in which individuals ingested as much as four times the recommended dose.
Additionally, some experts are concerned that the new powdery substance can be inhaled like elicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This would transmit the substance through the sinuses to the brain-blood barrier, which would result in an immediate high. …
While the recommended use for Palcohol is simply to add water to the powder, the company also suggests customers could experiment with more creative concepts, such as sprinkling it on food for “an extra kick.”
Mark Phillips, the creator of the product, told CBS News in an email statement that if used responsibly, Palcohol is as safe as standard alcohol.
“What Palcohol offers, because it’s a powder, is portability and lightness,” he said. “It is a great convenience for the person involved in activities where weight and bulk is a factor….like hiking, backpacking, etc. One package weighs about an ounce and is small enough to fit into any pocket.” [Phillips came up with the idea because he is an “active guy” and wanted a way to enjoy an adult beverage after long hours hiking, biking or camping without having to carry around heavy bottles.]
NOTE: This article was originally published at CBS News on April 23. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBS News. Visit the website at cbsnews .com.
NOTE to Students: Read the “Background” below before answering the questions.
1. a) What is the TTB? What does it do?
b) When did the TTB grant label approval to Palcohol?
2. a) What reason did the TTB give for rescinding Palcohol’s label approval?
b) What might be another explanation for the TTB taking back the approval?
3. What step is Palcohol now taking to try to regain label approval?
4. What types of potential problems do experts think could occur if Palcohol is approved for sale?
5. a) What did the FDA do about a caffeinated alcohol beverage several years ago?
b) Some lawmakers are calling on the FDA to step in, investigate Palcohol based on its obvious health risks and prohibit the product from going to market. Do you agree? Explain your answer.
6. Write one sentence to explain why the federal government should not permit the sale of powdered alcohol.
7. a) What adjective would you use to describe the adults involved in the creation and approval of powdered alcohol?
b) Ask a parent the same question.
Palcohol’s creator Mark Phillips thought up the idea while hiking and wanting to enjoy a cocktail, without lugging heavy liquid in containers, according to a company spokesman.
The stated purpose of Palcohol, first reported by Lehrman Beverage Law, is to create a very portable cocktail that can get into places like stadiums — adding five ounces of water will give the customer a “standard mixed drink.” (An earlier version of the product’s website, since scrubbed because it was in “draft mode,” said, “Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose.”) [YIKES!]
In April, news of the product’s federal approval spread like wildfire on the internet and social media sites, only to be quickly followed by news that approval was given in “error.”
Lawmakers across the country were quick to take a stance on the product while the news media covered the potential dangers and concerns surrounding Palcohol.
- The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), regulates beer, wine and spirit labeling, formulation, packaging and taxation. In order for Palcohol to hit store shelves in the U.S., it would have to receive several different approvals from TTB, not the FDA, as has been reported in some online articles.
- TTB is under the Department of the Treasury. The bureau develops regulations ensuring tax and trade compliance with the Federal Alcohol Administration Act and the Internal Revenue Code.
- According to Robert Lehrman, an attorney at Lehrman Beverage Law, the first step the company behind Palcohol would have to complete is obtaining a distillery license. This typically takes six months, around 100 pieces of paper and a background check. The company behind Palcohol has completed this step.
- The next step is to receive formula approval.
- Phillips has received seven different formula approvals from the federal government: Powderita, Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop, V (vodka), R (rum), R, V.
- The third step is label approval. Palcohol received label approval on April 8, 2014.
- Less than two weeks after the initial label approval, on April 21, 2014, the government pulled approval, saying it was done in “error.”
If Palcohol receives label approval from the TTB again, the company would then have to deal with individual state laws to be sold in the United States. The federal government doesn’t have power to approve or deny the sale of alcohol products in the states, that is left up to each state and each state has slightly different laws.
“Even if California…and New York say no…, he (Phillips) probably can find a state to [allow him to sell it]. Let’s say he gets one state, then we learn, is it priced right, does it taste well, is he even able to produce this at a commercial level,” beverage law attorney Robert Lehrman, who runs a beverage law website that initially reported on the product, said.
In an email, a company spokesperson for Palcohol said “the product can be sold in all states once the labels are approved unless the states specifically prohibit powdered alcohol.”
“They are trying to put lipstick on a pig,” Lehrman said. “He’s (Phillips) got nothing unless he has label approval, it’s a crucial step. He has to file paperwork in each state. Even if there is no rule, he can be blocked, even if there is not a law. They (state lawmakers) can just sit there and ignore him.” (from ABC’s newsnet5.com)
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