The Return of Four Loko – Even Without Caffeine, Still Popular with Teens

The ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, also called alcopop, was one of the biggest stories in the beverage service and sales industry in 2010. Popular beverages such as Four Loko were called dangerous, a binge in a can, and worse. Last November the Food and Drug Administration declared alcoholic energy drinks to be a public health concern. The FDA concluded that caffeine added to malt alcoholic beverages was an unsafe food additive (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

What made the combination so dangerous? The FDA raised concerns that caffeine additives may have masked some of the effects consumers typically rely on to determine their level of intoxication. In fact, drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). All of this was alarming enough to get these drinks pulled off of shelves, but also concerning was their popularity with teens and young adults.

Four Loko was, and continues to be, extremely popular with teens. A single can of Four Loko came in at 23.5 ounces, contained 12% alcohol, and also contained unsafe additives caffeine, taurine, and guarana. Four Loko came in much larger, and more potent, than a can of beer. In fact, concerns were raised that these drinks were marketed to appeal directly to teens (Marin Institute).

Several months later, Four Loko is back on shelves, without the caffeinated punch. The drinks have been reformulated and no longer contain additives like caffeine, but they still come in 23.5 ounce containers with 12% alcohol by volume (Omaha World-Herald). Teens may not realize they are consuming as much alcohol as they are until they are well on their way to unsafe intoxication. Four Loko still comes in fruity, teen-friendly flavors like fruit punch and watermelon. It also continues to be the drink of choice for many young people around the country (Bar Business Magazine).

What can you do as a beverage service professional to keep teens safe?

  1. Make sure that ‘alcopops’ such as Four Loko sold off-premises are displayed in areas dedicated to alcoholic beverages, not in the soft drink section. Many of these drinks can be easily confused for non-alcoholic energy drinks, and it just makes it easier on everyone involved to keep them separate.
  2. Always card anyone who appears to be under the age of 30. Retailers and off-site sales professionals should be diligent about checking IDs to make sure teenagers are not trying to purchase liquor with fake or borrowed identification.
  3. For more ways to help curb teens’ access to alcohol, read our blog post, “Teen Drinking is a Dangerous Business,” and refer to We Don’t Serve Teens’ suggestions.

What policies have you instituted at your organization to deter teen drinking?

Resources

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

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Are Your Safe Beverage Service Policies Working? If Not, It Could Cost You

A recent news story regarding the accidental service of an alcoholic beverage to a minor is making waves, and it serves to remind us exactly why alcohol awareness education is so important. A toddler was recently served an alcohol-infused margarita mix in place of apple juice at an Applebee’s restaurant in Michigan, possibly the result of a mislabeled bottle at the bar. You can read the full story on The Detroit News’ website here.

New procedures have been put in place by the company to prevent this type of mistake from happening again, but the damage has already been done. The parents are suing, and there is a monstrous wave of bad publicity for the Applebee’s franchise. Luckily, the child who consumed the beverage and began behaving strangely is OK, but he did register a .10 BAC, more than the legal limit of intoxication for an adult driver. Worth noting and also alarming is that this is the fourth such related incident reported since 2006 for Applebee’s. This is why staff training and alcohol awareness education is so important. There are legal, ethical and moral obligations to keep patrons, of all ages, safe.

Policy changes put into place by Applebee’s include only using apple juice from single-serve containers and retraining staff on beverage pouring policies and procedures. You can read Applebee’s response regarding the event and more about their new procedures here.

As a reminder to all hospitality workers, there are a few common-sense solutions that everyone can use to make sure that patrons are receiving what they ordered, and are being served safely and responsibly.

  1. Store alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages separately, and make sure containers are labeled properly so that bartenders and servers are aware of the contents. A pitcher may look like it contains juice or something else recognizable, but if you aren’t 100% sure of the contents, do not serve it.
  2. Double check that your guests are being served exactly what they ordered. If you deliver beverages to your guests, aside from visually inspecting the glass to make sure that they are receiving their correct beverage choice, you can repeat the beverage name to the patron upon delivery to confirm with them that they are receiving exactly what they ordered. If another staff member delivers beverages to your patrons for you, swing by to make sure the order is correct and they are happy with their beverage.
  3. Always card your guests if they appear to be under 30. Hospitality workers need to be concerned not only with incorrect orders and beverages, but also underage patrons who are trying to illegally obtain alcoholic beverages. To learn more about recognizing a fake or borrowed ID, refer to our blog post, “Are Minors Using Fake IDs and Sneaking Past You?” Most establishments also have a guidebook, like the I.D. Checking Guide, for validating various forms of identification. Ask your manager if you have a guide like this in your establishment and refer to it if needed. The I.D. Checking Guide can be purchased from TAM® here.

To learn more about safe beverage service, take the Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) ® course offered by TAM® of Nevada. Do you think this incident could have been prevented? What types of procedures does your establishment have in place to prevent these types of accidents from happening?

Resources

Toddler’s Alcoholic Drink Prompts Changes at Applebee’s – The Detroit News

Applebee’s Corporate Statement on Incident in Madison Heights, MI – Applebee’s

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

We here at TAM® of Nevada like to promote alcohol awareness and responsible drinking year round. However, we’re happy to help spread the message that April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe life choices.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to health problems, including alcohol poisoning, hangovers, and an increased risk of heart disease. 3 in 10 adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcoholism, liver disease, and other problems, and nearly 18 million Americans have alcoholism or related problems (NIAAA). These are “sobering” numbers that heighten the role that servers and sellers have in protecting their communities.

This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, TAM® of Nevada encourages you to take this time to educate yourself about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Good judgment and knowledge of the Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) ® are crucial qualities in a service professional; and Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity for you to showcase your training.

Alcohol abuse is a dangerous problem. This month, reflect on your own habits and those of your patrons. Do you recognize the signs of alcohol abuse and binge drinking in yourself or others? You can learn more about the dangers of alcoholism in hospitality workers by reading our blog ‘Warning – Hospitality Workers May Be at Risk for Alcohol Abuse,” and learn more about spotting binge drinkers by reading out blog, “Beware of Binge Drinkers.”

If you recognize a drinking problem in yourself, a loved one, or a customer, it is time to take action by making changes in your life, or making suggestions to others on ways to get help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a helpful guide titled, “How to Cut Down on Your Drinking,” to help you form an action plan to tackle the problem. Some of their tips to cut down include:

  1. Avoid temptation at home. By keeping little or no alcohol around at home, you won’t be tempted to overindulge.
  2. Learn how to say no. It may not be easy to be around other people who are drinking without imbibing yourself, but learning how to politely, but firmly say no can be empowering. You should let people know you’re trying to cut back or quit, and stay away from anyone who pushes you to drink.
  3. Keep busy with other activities. Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy and focus your energy on staying active doing something that doesn’t involve drinking.

Finally, remember one should never be afraid to ask for the help they need. One can ask for help from a friend, family member or doctor if necessary. How will you promote safe choices and alcohol awareness this month?

Resources

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Are You Prepared for the Holiday Blues?

During November, December and January, the holiday blues can affect many people causing them to self-medicate or turn to drugs and alcohol for relief. The odds of having drugs in your establishment are not only greater during the holidays, but also with the rise in non-medical use of prescription drugs. If you work in or run an establishment that serves or sells alcoholic beverages for on-premise or off-premise consumption, you should always take precautions to safeguard your company, yourself and your community. 

As you know, drugs bring unwanted trouble into an establishment, such as: negative press/media, violence, fights, overdoses, higher levels of intoxication, etc. Because the holiday months are peak periods for drug and alcohol use, you should pay even more attention and observe what is going on around you.

Illicit drug use is widespread. Here are some national and Nevada specific stats that are alarming and we’ve included links to pictures of these drugs so that you can identify them when you see them.

  • In 2009, an estimated 21.8 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview. [2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)] 
  • Nevada ranks 4th in the nation in non-medical use of prescription pain relievers in people ages 18 to 25. [2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)]
  • The most commonly misused pain relievers are: Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Tylenol 3 (acetaminophen and codeine phosphate), and Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen). 
  • In the years 2002 through 2006, Nevada ranked highest in the nation aged 12 or older reporting methamphetamine use in the past year. [2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)] 
  • Marijuana was used by 76.6 percent of current illicit drug users and was the only drug used by 58.0 percent of them. [2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)] 
  • In August 2007, an NSDUH report on worker substance use indicated that 28% of full time workers (age 18 to 64) in the accommodations and food services, arts and entertainment industry had used illicit drugs in the past month.  [2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)] 

So, how can you keep drugs out without having to search and frisk everyone who comes through your doors?

  • Partner with local authorities and train your staff—Local law enforcement are your partners and can help you provide training to your employees.
  • Communicate expectations—Make sure that your new employee orientation and employee handbook covers ways to handle drugs in your establishment. Clearly state that drug use is not tolerated and give employees information about who to notify when someone (whether a guest or a colleague) is using illegal drugs on the establishment’s property.
  • Increase your security staff—Your security staff should be present, visible to your guests and well-trained in detecting the behaviors and indications of drug use.
  • Estimate BAC—Remember to calculate the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of your guests. If you notice that someone is showing the effects of the alcohol sooner than you expected, then you should be cautious as they may be taking prescription pain relievers or using some other substance.
  • Encourage reporting of suspicious behavior—You need the eyes and ears of your employees if you are going to keep drugs out of your establishment. Heighten their awareness and give them observation tips so that they are monitoring their surroundings and reporting suspicious or unusual behavior to security or management. Don’t forget to reward your employees for reporting concerns. What gets rewarded, gets repeated.
  • Post information about illicit drug use at your establishment—Hang posters about drug use and abuse and your company’s policies for illicit drug use at your establishment in restrooms and employee break rooms. 

What measures do you take to keep drugs out of your establishment?

Resources 

http://www.methresources.gov/nv.html 

http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k7/industry/worker.htm

http://mhds.nv.gov/dmdocuments/SANSDUHStateRankings.pdf

© 2010 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada