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Four Loko Maker To Make Alcohol Content More Prominent

The maker of Four Loko has agreed to make the alcohol content of its big cans a lot easier to figure out.

Soon the alcohol inside will be expressed in the equivalent number of regular beers. The equation: A 23 1/2 ounce cans of Four Loko = 4 1/2 beers.

The new labels, plus a resealable opening so the alcohol-laced drink doesn't have to be consumed in one sitting, came as the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Phusion Projects had understated the amount of alcohol in some of its products.

The FTC says Four Loko had claimed the cans had the same amount of alcohol as one or two 12-ounce beers. And, further, that a consumer could drink an entire can safely at "a single occasion." The result encouraged binge drinking, the regulator alleged.

In a statement emailed to Shots, Phusion Projects says:

Even though we reached an agreement, we don't share the FTC's perspective and we disagree with their allegations. We don't believe there were any violations. However, we take legal compliance very seriously and we share the FTC's interest in making sure consumers get all the information and tools they need to make smart, informed decisions.

Under pressure from regulators, Phusion Projects agreed almost a year ago to drop the caffeine from Four Loko drinks. A flurry of reports of hospitalizations and deaths among young people who allegedly consumed the drinks, sometimes called "blackout in a can," led to campus bans of the stuff around the country.

The Food and Drug Administration told Phusion Projects and some other beverage makers last November that caffeine constituted an "unsafe food additive" when incorporated in an alcoholic beverage. Days before the letter hit, the company decided to change the Four Loko recipe. No products containing caffeine, taurine and guarana were shipped after Nov. 17 last year. None of the stuff already on the market was recalled either, the company said.

More recently the University of New Hampshire announced a ban of even the alcohol-free energy drinks. But the university's president reversed the decision a few days later.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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