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Schumer Reveals: Amazingly, FDA Refuses to Investigate Palcohol - Powdered Alcohol - An Obviously Dangerous New Product

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 -- The office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., issued the following news release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to investigate the health risks of Palcohol -powdered alcohol - and therefore unveiled a two-pronged plan to ensure that this obviously dangerous product does not reach Long Island store shelves and underage consumers. First, Schumer called on Long Island and national retailers to be responsible citizens and sign a pledge to boycott the sale of Palcohol, which the producer, Lipsmark, plans to have on store shelves as early as next month. Second, Schumer introduced legislation, as part of a larger underage drinking package in the Senate, to make powdered alcohol an illegal product. Palcohol is easily concealable, can be mixed with water and sprinkled onto food, and can even be snorted. Schumer will speak to the already massive problem of underage drinking, DUI's and other alcohol-related crime on Long Island, and say that Palcohol creates an immense danger to teens and others on Long Island. Long Island health experts will note that a child that tries an alcohol product before the age of 15 is 5 times more likely to become addicted to other illegal products.

Earlier this year, Schumer urged the FDA to step in to investigate the potential harmful effects of Palcohol, however the FDA has since said it will not order an investigation into Palcohol. Therefore, once Palcohol is approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the product will have cleared all key federal approvals and can be on store shelves by Fall 2014. Schumer revealed, on Long Island, that the FDA has made the shocking decision not to investigate, and therefore Schumer is urging that retailers voluntarily pledge not to sell this dangerous product, and is introducing legislation to ensure that this product cannot be sold at all.

"While it defies logic that the FDA will not investigate the obvious health concerns of Palcohol, responsible retailers should do the right thing and keep this dangerous product away from our kids on Long Island, who are already exposed to drinking at an incredibly young age. Powdered alcohol is a disturbing concept and will only make it easier for minors on Long Island to access, conceal and abuse alcohol," said Schumer. "I also plan to introduce legislation that will make powdered alcohol illegal - plain and simple.

"We simply can't sit back and wait for Palcohol to hit store shelves and possibly be to blame for more alcohol-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," Schumer continued.

Schumer was joined by Jeff Reynolds, the Executive Director of the Family and Children's Association, (FCA); several teens and young adults that can speak through personal experience of the perils of alcohol and under-aged drinking; Josh Lafazan of LICAD; Irene Garone, the President of the Daytop Family Association and others.

"We thank Senator Schumer for his continued push to limit sales of this dangerous product. We know that young people who consume alcohol before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to develop an addiction of the course of their lifetime and as we wind down the 100 deadliest days of the year, we've seen far too many fatal car crashes this summer that have been linked to impaired driving. As we struggle to address epic levels of underage drinking, impaired driving and an historic addiction crisis on Long Island, the last thing we need to add to that mix is Palcohol," said Jeffrey L. Reynolds, President and CEO of Family and Children's Association

"Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is focused on tackling underage drinking, a problem that threatens the safety of our kids and endangers entire communities, now and down the road. These legislative measures provide a strong program to crackdown on the problem of underage drinking. Our Power of Parents(TM) program is designed to equip parents with the tools and resources to start ongoing conversations about alcohol with their youth. Our hope is that with good parental messaging, law enforcement and legislation we can prevent underage drinking in our County," said Richard Mallow, MADD New York Executive Director.

Underage alcohol abuse is a growing problem. A 2011 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs showed that the number of hospitalizations of young adults ages 18-24 due to alcohol overdoses has been steadily increasing for over a decade. The National Institute of Health also reports that approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related incidents.

Palcohol is made by company Lipsmark LLC, and is freeze dried alcohol produced in a powder form. According to their website, the company plans to release six types of Palcohol packets including vodka, Puerto Rican rum, cosmopolitan, mojito, powderita (margarita) and lemon drop by the Fall of 2014. Palcohol can be combined with water or another liquid to instantly create an alcoholic beverage. The company also suggests adding Palcohol to food like guacamole, salads and sauce.

The company's original website brazenly suggested different ways in which Palcohol could be used. The company suggested illegally bringing Palcohol to stadium events to avoid overpriced drinks. The company also suggested combining Palcohol with foods after they are cooked; some suggestions included: vodka on eggs and rum on a sandwich. The company even explained that Palcohol could be snorted to get drunk "almost instantly." This suggestion on Palcohol's website has since been taken down.

Palcohol was originally approved by TTB, which was then rescinded on April 21st due to a discrepancy in the "fill level" for each packet, or the amount of powder in each pouch. Lipsmark agreed to surrender the label, but has noted that "This doesn't mean that Palcohol isn't approved. It just means that these labels aren't approved. We will re-submit labels." The company still notes their expectation that the product will be available for sale this fall.

In May, Schumer called on the FDA to immediately step in and halt sales of Palcohol. Schumer noted his grave concern that the TTB does not have the legal authority to disapprove Palcohol's labels based on health risk, and therefore called on the FDA to intervene by investigating the health and safety of this product. Schumer explained that a 1976 district court ruling determined the roles and overlap between TTB and the FDA when it comes to regulating alcoholic beverages. Following that decision, the TTB and FDA came to a memorandum of understanding that gave TTB primary regulatory control over alcohol, but gave FDA the ability to raise concerns and investigate unsafe products. For example, the FDA stopped companies from selling caffeinated Four Loko, which was found to be a dangerous alcoholic energy drink, even after the TTB approved the product.

Shockingly, the FDA has since declined to investigate this obviously dangerous product. Therefore, Schumer is taking a short and long-term approach to prevent Palcohol from being sold. First, he is urging Long Island and national retailers of distilled spirits to pledge that they will not sell Palcohol once TTB approvals are made and the product is eligible for sale. Schumer acknowledges that many retailers will not voluntarily do this, and will also amend existing Senate legislation, the STOP Act, that is aimed at addressing underage drinking, in a way that makes powdered alcohol illegal.

A copy of Schumer's letter to Tom Edwards, President of the NYS Liquor Store Association and Michael Correra, Executive Director of Metropolitan Package Store Association, appears below:

August 11, 2014

Dear Mr. Edwards and Mr. Correra:

I write to ask your help to keep a dangerous new product off the shelves of New York State liquor stores and out of our communities. Powdered alcohol, once approved for sale by federal authorities, has the potential to dramatically increase the already pervasive problems of substance abuse, especially by underage drinkers. Leading substance abuse experts have voiced serious concerns with this new product and its potential to negatively impact our youth and alcohol abusers. I ask that your members please join us and pledge to not sell powdered alcohol in their store.

After witnessing dangerous incidences of abuse due to unconventional alcoholic drinks coming on the market, it is safe to say that allowing powdered alcohol in stores may have similar consequences. According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the University of Colorado, the nature of this new product makes it easy to abuse and especially appealing to those who are underage. Powdered alcohol can be consumed in several unconventional ways: it can be added to any beverage to make an instant cocktail, added to food, or even snorted for an extremely dangerous, almost immediate intoxication. Additionally, given that it is packaged in small single serving packs, powdered alcohol would be easy for underage drinkers to conceal and carry into venues that prohibit alcohol including concerts, school dances, and sporting events.

Underage alcohol abuse is a growing problem with tragic consequence. A 2011 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs showed that the number of hospitalizations of young adults ages 18-24 due to alcohol overdoses has been steadily increasing for over a decade. The National Institute of Health also reports that approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol related incidents. Tragic incidents of abuse by young adults that resulted from the consumption of unconventional alcoholic drinks, such as Four Loko, might have been limited by preventing access to these dangerous products. It is imperative that we ensure powdered alcohol does not have the same devastating effect on our youth.

The latest attempt to market powdered alcohol has come with the creation of Palcohol - a new product that comes in packets of various flavors. This product is in the process of obtaining label certification by the Department of Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB however, can only judge new alcohol products based on federal marketing and taxation standards and will not be looking at Palcohol's likelihood for abuse. This certification will likely be obtained in the near future.

Please join our effort to keep Palcohol and other forms of powdered alcohol out of stores and out of our communities. Alcohol abuse and underage drinking are fast growing health problems facing our nation. We must address these concerning health issues by making it more difficult, not less, for abusers and underage consumers to acquire alcohol. Thank you for your consideration to this important matter.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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