Bellingham-based Haggen Inc. has pulled the sale of alcoholic energy drinks from its stores after investigators linked such drinks to the hospitalization of nine Ellensburg college students Oct. 9.
The company, which runs 32 Haggen Food &Pharmacy and TOP Food and Drug stores in Washington and Oregon, said it was ending sales of Four Loko and Joose beverages immediately.
Becky Skaggs, director of consumer affairs for the company, said the students, who were at a party at Central Washington University, had been drinking Four Loko.
“After studying this issue for some time, we’ve seen consensus build among health experts and law enforcement officials about the public-safety risk posed by people consuming beverages with caffeine and above-average alcohol content,” Skaggs said. “The right thing to do for our communities is to immediately stop sales of Four Loko and Joose, regardless of if or when a government agency bans them.”
Central Washington announced Monday that it was banning such drinks, which are caffeinated malt liquor, pending a review of the school’s policies and potential dangers from the drinks.
“The health and safety of our students has to come first,” CWU President James Gaudino said in announcing the ban.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, announced Monday that he would renew efforts toward a national restriction on such beverages and also a state ban. McKenna is set to become president of the National Association of Attorneys General in June.
McKenna said he has sent a letter to the federal Food and Drug Administration notifying it of the investigation involving the students.
“It is time to bring an end to the sale of alcoholic energy drinks,” he said. “They’re marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are. They’re packaged just like non-alcoholic drinks, but include a dangerous dose of malt liquor.”
The blood alcohol level of the hospitalized students ranged from 0.123 to 0.35, according to Gaudino.
McKenna said a level of 0.3 is considered lethal.