Caffeinated alcohol Four Loko is back—but this time in China, where it is called “lose virginity liquor”

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

Caffeinated alcohol Four Loko is back—but this time in China, where it is called “lose virginity liquor”

 

Quartz

Written by Echo Huang Yinyin

August 25, 2016

The dangerous blend of stimulants and alcohol, Four Loko, is making a comeback—in China.

 

While drink’s popularity in the US waned after a series of hospitalizations and other incidents, it is now being offered on China’s giant online shopping portals Alibaba and JD.com, where it is being advertised as “blackout in a can.”

 

Four Loko’s new Chinese users refer to it online as shi shen jiu, or “lose virginity liquor.”

 

Already, some imbibers are running into trouble. Four twenty-something Chinese girls in Nanjing, an eastern city near Shanghai, wanted to try the drink, local police reported (link in Chinese, registration required). After three of them consumed six cans they sneaked into a karaoke bar, they passed out and were robbed, police said.

 

First manufactured in the US about a decade ago, Four Loko is made by Phusion Projects of Chicago. The US Food and Drug Administration warned the company in November 2010 that the beverage’s mixture of alcohol with caffeine could be hazardous to users. The “Four” in the name stands for caffeine, alcohol, the Brazilian stimulant guarana, and the animal-derived stimulant taurine (which is also used in energy drinks like Red Bull). The alcohol is malt liquor.

 

More than a dozen states in US have banned Four Loko since then, including Washington, where nine university students were hospitalized after consuming Four Loko and vodka in October of 2010. Parents of a 20-year-old Florida man who had been drinking the alcoholic beverage for 30 hours say it caused their son to commit suicide in November, 2010. Phusion pledged to remove the caffeine in the US, and the product is still available in many states.

 

The company is apparently relying on Alibaba and JD.com to make inroads in China—there are dozens of sellers offering it on Alibaba’s Taobao, and on JD.com. It even has its own flagship store on Tmall, the online shopping platform for brands owned by Alibaba.

 

But most Four Loko products listed on Taobao say ingredients include 12% alcohol, caffeine, and amino acids commonly used for “alertness”—all in eight fruity flavors.

 

The prices vary from 29 yuan ($4.4) per can on Taobao to 100 yuan ($15) on Tmall. Though Taobao is notorious for fakes, over 10,000 people have bought the products.

 

Consuming a standard 695 ml can would be equal to drinking six beers or five glasses of 45 proof whisky, according to Four Loko’s Tmall homepage. It is also being sold through liquor distribution agents (link in Chinese, registration required), one who calls it ‘beer,’ even though most beers sold in China contain 4% to 8% alcohol.

 

No domestic manufactures are producing the liquor, state media outlet Xinhua (link in Chines, registration required) reports. Chinese consumers are already starting to ask questions about the drink. One commented online (link in Chinese, registration required) “Why is it banned in US but trendy now in China? Where is the Chinese FDA?”