Four Loko maker says it's ‘extremely saddened’ by teen deaths in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach police are continuing their investigation into the deaths of two teens whose bodies were found in a vacant apartment unit with an empty can of Four Loko nearby.
Phusion Projects, producer of the popular but controversial energy drink, issued a statement Tuesday saying the company is "extremely saddened by this tragic event."
Although police do not know whether Four Loko played a role in the incident, they have said that it appears the deaths of Aaron Saenz, 15, of Westminster and Chelsea Taylor, 16, of Huntington Beach may have been drug- and alcohol-related. Coroner's officials are awaiting toxicology results.
Four Loko has been banned in some states by lawmakers concerned about the energy drink that combines caffeine and alcohol.
Known as "blackout in a can," Four Loko is a fruity drink that contains 6% to 12% alcohol. The beverage, sold in a 23.5-ounce container, is equivalent to drinking about four beers plus a strong cup of coffee, health experts say.
"We work very hard to ensure our products are consumed safely and responsibly by adults over the age of 21, and we have a vested interest -– both personal and professional -– in assuring the continued responsible consumption of our products," Phusion Projects said in a written statement to The Times. "Those that sell or provide alcohol to minors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In November, the company began reformulating its caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including Four Loko, to remove caffeine, guarana or taurine and to stop distribution of the original formulas. The company said that decision came in advance of a warning issued by the federal Food and Drug Administration requesting that the firm stop selling caffeinated malt alcoholic beverages because the caffeine constituted an unsafe food additive.
"Since that time, we've been working closely with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and our distributors to legally dispose of these products, and to do so in a way that promotes recycling and sustainability," the company said in its statement.
-- Nate Jackson and Kimi Yoshino