FDA, Dietary Supplements & Soda Pop | Natural Health Blog

Date: 04/24/2007    Written by: Jon Barron

The FDA Claims Cocaine Soda A Drug

Fahrenheit 451

Earlier this month, the FDA came down on Redux Beverages, the company behind Cocaine Soda, claiming they were marketing it as a drug.

Let me begin by saying that the whole premise and ad campaign for Cocaine Soda is tasteless and appeals to people's baser instincts. It's worthy of being mocked and spoofed. But bad taste is not illegal. Offensive, yes. Illegal, no. Certainly every reasonable person would like to see Cocaine Soda disappear from the market – but by market forces, not by extra FDA censorship. It's a very dangerous precedent.

Let's take a look at the FDA complaint in the letter they sent to Redux Beverages:

"The following statements that are noted on your product container or on your website demonstrate that your product is intended as an alternative to an illicit street drug:

  • "The Legal Alternative"
  • The product name is "Cocaine," and the letters in the product name appear to be spelled out in a white granular substance that resembles cocaine powder.
  • "Speed in a Can"
  • "Liquid Cocaine"
  • "Cocaine - Instant Rush"
  • "The question you have to ask yourself is: "Can I handle the rush?"
  • This beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, . . . and possible feeling of euphoria."

Please! As I said, the name Cocaine Soda and its campaign may be tasteless, but their marketing statements cited by the FDA are so tongue in cheek that no cognizant human being would believe they amounted to a claim that the drink was supposed to be a pharmaceutical alternative to the illicit street drug cocaine – particularly when you look at the ingredients. They are virtually identical to every other energy drink – caffeine, sugar, inositol, taurine, etc. Attacking Redux's marketing campaign represents a huuuuge stretch of the intent of the DSHEA Act, which covers labeling and efficacy claims for foods and supplements. This issue has nothing to do with protecting the public from false health claims. The FDA is turning the intent of DSHEA upside down and is using it to enforce its own view of morality – far outside the purview of the law, and reason for everyone to be concerned. What's next, the FDA banning Sly and the Family Stone's, “I Want to Take You Higher” because the song's explicit purpose is to simulate the effects of a controlled substance – to take you higher? You think this is an exaggeration? Not so much. According to the proposed new guidelines, energy work and massage therapy can be considered "medical" treatments and regulated accordingly. We're on very dangerous ground here.

The FDA went on to say about the company's website:

“The following statements on your website about an ingredient of "Cocaine" demonstrate that your product is intended to treat or prevent certain diseases:

"Inositol -... reduces cholesterol in the blood; it helps prevent hardening of the arteries, and may protect nerve fibers from excess glucose damage. Inositol has a natural calming effect and may be used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder without the side effects of prescription medications."

So what is inositol? It's part of the vitamin-B complex and is required for proper formation of cell membranes.

Was the statement on the Redux website illegal? Not necessarily. Technically, it falls in DSHEA gray area. Redux did not claim that their soda reduced cholesterol or helped with anxiety, only that one of the ingredients could. Was that illegal? Again, not necessarily. There is substantial credible scientific evidence that it can indeed help with these things.

Despite the support of this study, it appears the people at Redux probably confused inositol with inositol hexaniacinate, which is actually a form of niacin and which has a long history of use in controlling blood lipids.

The use of the standard disclaimer on the company's website that the FDA had not approved their statements should have been enough to clear the intent of DSHEA in terms of the supposed medical claims. In the end, though, this wasn't about medical claims. It was about the FDA using an expansion of DSHEA to implement a social agenda because some influential people were offended by the Redux ad campaign. Whatever your opinion of the morality of the issue, the DSHEA laws were clearly not designed to regulate it. By itself, the FDA's action means nothing, but for everyone in the health and nutrition industry and for everyone who uses nutritional supplements, it's a shot across the bow. It's a statement as to how serious the FDA is about their new guidance document and how far they intend to stretch the boundaries of DSHEA. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

There is nothing about Cocaine Soda that is noble. They are not standing up for any great principles. There is nothing about them that is worth defending. But that's exactly why the FDA went after them. They are the perfect patsy on which to test the expansion of their power as augured in their guidance document.

And before we get too indignant about Cocaine Soda, let's remember where Coca Cola got its name – from the coca leaf extract (cocaine) that was used in the original formula. The caffeine in Coke was deliberately put into the formula as a replacement/alternativeto an illicit street drug. There's no ambiguity here. Just think of their advertising slogan: “It's the real thing!” Let' be absolutely clear here. If the FDA's real issue with Cocaine Soda was their choice of name and its positioning as an alternative to an illicit drug, they'd have gone after Coke years ago. Speaking of which, where are the country's moralists when it comes to Coca Cola's name and branding? Probably sipping on their Cokes when they made the decision to go after Cocaine Soda for its publicity value.

Update: the State of Connecticut just seized 300 cases of Cocaine Soda from distribution warehouses throughout the state. Why? The State claims the water used in the sodas is not certified. This is patent nonsense. The real reason was made clear a week earlier when the State Attorney General and the Mayor of Hartford denounced the drink's name. Like the FDA, this is the government turning health and nutrition law upside down in an extralegal attempt to enforce a personal agenda. But in Connecticut's case, I think the agenda is political. They saw how much publicity New York City got for banning trans fatty acids, and they didn't want to get scooped again. All nonsense, except for the fact that it establishes precedent. Everyone in the alternative health community should be concerned.

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    Submitted by Adam on
    April 26, 2007 - 5:38am

    This is Ridiculous, Cocaine Energy is perfectly safe. All of the Alegations are Assinine. The company named their product Cocaine as part of a clever marketing ploy, and guess what, its working. just leave the company alone until they actually do something illeagle.

    Submitted by Cecilia Alcantar on
    May 1, 2007 - 2:54am

    Carefully reading this blog of information allowed me to reflect on the fact that I depend upon the benefits of nutritional supplements and consider the value of your insight into each of your products to be sound. I pray that in my lifetime, I will have the good fortune to continue taking the baseline products with confidence that they will be around a long time.
    Thanks for applying your knowledge to the greater cause for people like me living with chronic severe rheumatoid arthritis. (which by the way for 5 years, has been well managed without the toxic effects of prescription medications. My liver is happy and so am I)
    Cecilia Alcantar
    Dallas Texas

    Submitted by Chris Sapp on
    April 26, 2007 - 10:43pm

    I loved the Cocaine Energy Drink! I hate the taste of most energy drinks, but with all of the buzz about banning this one...I had to have one. It was great...here I am at 10:37pm "jonesing" for another one...perhaps they are addictive :) Great point about Coca Cola and it's beginning. This is absolute lunacy on the part of the FDA...Hypocrites! More governmental abuse operating under the color of law.

    Submitted by Cocaine addiction on
    December 14, 2008 - 4:35pm

    There are various cocaine drug rehab camps available in America. This camp provides complete healthy and friendly addicted people. They give very effective treatment and services to their cocaine addiction people. They also propose different kind of treatment methods to cocaine addiction people. If you want to more information about the cocaine drug rehab camp so you can visit the web site.

    Submitted by Curt Cuomo on
    April 27, 2007 - 11:31am

    Your article was absolutely on the money. I believe it was one of our founding fathers who said, I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Let us never forger that and the slippery slope we are precariously perched upon. Thank you for your insightful and important view of a very serious situation.

    Submitted by dont worry on
    April 28, 2007 - 3:46pm

    Well you know what, i love the drink. i love the taste, and the good energy it brings. And it's about time they got the attention and popularity they were going for. Don't you see you are caught in Cocaine's trap. Redux named it that and chose their ingredients to get quick popularity unlike other energy drinks, which had to wait quite a while. Just think about it.

    Submitted by Grunden on
    April 29, 2007 - 12:26pm

    I think the FDA is just trying to denounce Cocaine Soda because it is appealing to a younger generation of people. The government is trying to put a ban on anything to try to make the youth of this country become robots to their idea of how we should live our lives. So what that someone wants to drink an energy drink that has the name Cocaine in it. If someone were to make a drink called Meth Soda which i dont recomend, do you think they would make a fus about it? Of course they would because it appeals to the youth of today. Today's young people are very busy in their lives. Most college kids try to do studies, work, play sports, and all of this with only a couple hours of sleep. Why not let them have an energy drink that will help them stay awake. Red Bull only works if you are up movin around. I have tried Cocaine Soda and it really does give you an energy boost. Would the FDA prefer to have people out doin real cocaine or drinkin Cocaine Soda????

    Submitted by HOBOBOB on
    April 26, 2007 - 10:02pm

    Good job, I find the drink enjoyable (and I consider myself to be reasonable even though I don't want it off the market, even though I'd still drink it under a different name} and I think its about time that somebody pointed out what the FDA was doing besides the "They suck and F*** them" So great post man, and I'm glad to see that some of "you people" who aren't for keeping it around at least have enough sense to see what really happening *cough* Jen *cough*

    Submitted by Hogan on
    April 26, 2007 - 9:16am

    Wow... who do they think they are doing this? I thought this was a free country but I now see how wrong I really was.. If left to the gov. we would all be locked up in concentration camps doing exactly what they wanted us to......

    Submitted by J on
    April 26, 2007 - 12:00am

    um yea this is utter bull s*it. if they are so stupid to think that because a can said cocaine that the company is trying to portray it as a drug they should be shot. i like the drink its just like any other energy drink. find somthing important to talk about fda.

    Submitted by jeff on
    April 25, 2007 - 11:41pm

    not cool, its just an energy drink, wahts next taking red bull off b/c it doesnt actually give you wings, its just a drink with a diff name, nothing illegal i guess the fda just has nothing better to do with thier time but waste it on senseless things

    Submitted by kimberly pesta on
    April 26, 2007 - 12:45pm

    This is absolutely ridiculous! ive tried this drink and its no different from every other energy drink on the market. Just because the name refers to a drug doesnt mean the drink is one!

    Submitted by matt on
    April 26, 2007 - 2:25pm

    i like the drink cocain but i am not addicted to it. and the name of the drink is just a name-freedom of speech.

    Submitted by Sarah on
    April 25, 2007 - 11:22pm

    Pimp Juice
    Pimps are known for beating and murdering their “Hoes” . We should probably ban this too, we wouldn’t want to glamourize that part of society.
    Reload Energy Drink
    Reload? As in reload my gun?? I don’t want my future children drinking something that makes guns look cool!!
    I’ll stop there. Let’s not forget one of our countries main values: free speech. Anything you say is bound to offend at least one person. We need to stop coddling our citizens. If they don’t like Cocaine, they don’t have to buy it. Products should be named whatever the maker pleases.

    Submitted by Sarah Buck on
    April 26, 2007 - 2:52pm

    I'm glad to see others recognizing this attack for what it really is. I can personally attest that none of Cocaine's claims are false. It is indeed a rush unlike any other beverage, and does induce stamina, excitement, and feelings of euphoria. The fact that it does so without illegal drugs is merely a testament to its legitimacy. Redux deserves the same rights as any other company. Even if one finds fault with their marketing, if we fail to stand up for their rights, our own rights will be next. Any injustice must be fought against, not just the ones we care about.

    Submitted by Stewie Meyer on
    April 26, 2007 - 7:06am

    I enjoyed your article and I do believe you have a very valid point when it comes to the attack on Cocaine Enery Drink. I personally am a big fan of energy drinks (being a lowely CNA you tend to need the boost on those 16 hour shifts) and while I cannot claim that I agree 100% with the name choice, I can't see any point to get up in arms about it. My basic veiw is this: People are not as stupid and idiotic as the state governments and the FDA make them out to be. If someone is dumb enough to buy this thinking it will have an actual Schedule II drug in it will quickly realize and I highly doubt that they would develope a hard-core habit for it. Of course, I don't have the experience that the FDA does, but I am pretty sure they are out of their league on this one. If they are able to ban this drink without any backlash, then they win. Who knows what else they will try to ban. In closing, the FDA is a bunch of gorillas and need to chill.

    Submitted by Tammy Batterson on
    April 29, 2007 - 4:15pm

    I think this drink is very bad. He we are trying to keep kids from doing drugs. And then you go and name a drink after a drug. I think it should be outlawed. And to give kids a suger high why would anyone wont to make a drink so kids can get high off of. I am very up set about this.

    Submitted by todd lissner on
    April 26, 2007 - 2:13am

    i love cocaine energy drink it has nothing to do with drugs as a product or substance itself, except that it being marketed in that way makes it "cool"and there4 conservitive fogeys in the goverment want 2 silence it.thats the real issue its"youthful"basically i like the taste and feeling from it.celebrate national disobediance day august 30th

    Submitted by Whitney on
    April 29, 2007 - 4:00am

    I'm not sure about the general public, but I fully support the cocaine energy drink company. They make it apparent that there are no illegal substances in their beverage, yet obvious that their drink is, or should be used as an energy drink. Rock on!

    Submitted by Riswifha on
    January 24, 2011 - 5:49pm

    Phenol, formaldehyde, water and catalyst are mixed in the desired amount, depending on the resin to be formed, and are then heated. 

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