Quebec beverage maker Geloso announces end of FCKD UP drink
By Sidhartha BanerjeeGeneral Food & Beverage Manufacturing alcohol beverage manufacturing
Beverage maker said it was mistake to sell the product, designed to counter Four Loko made by a US competitor.
MONTREAL — Geloso Group is ceasing production of a sweetened alcoholic beverage and pulling the product from store shelves as calls for tougher regulations and controls surrounding the drinks ramped up over the weekend.
The Quebec beverage company said in a statement on Sunday that it has ordered employees to stop producing FCKD UP immediately.
The decision comes after the death of 14-year-old Athena Gervais last week in Laval, Que.
Her body was pulled from a stream near her high school and Montreal’s La Presse reported that the teen had been drinking stolen cans of the sweetened alcoholic beverage prior to her death.
Laval police are still awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the girl’s exact cause of death, which they called accidental.
The statement issued by the Geloso Group made no reference to the death, but co-president Aldo Geloso said the company was taking the necessary steps to stop selling the product.
Geloso said it was mistake to sell the product, which was designed to counter Four Loko, a drink made by a U.S. competitor that arrived in the market with an alcohol content of 11.9% – the most allowed for a malt product.
Geloso said his company reluctantly decided to introduce its own brand to compete with Four Loko, adding the company took care to encourage responsible and legal consumption, noting the target audience for the marketing of the product was the 18-25 age group.
“All this being said, with hindsight, I think it was a mistake to enter this category to compete with Four Loko,” Geloso said. “In fact, the Four Loko category should not even exist.”
In November, Quebec’s alcohol and gaming authority had forced Four Loko’s local bottler to stop manufacturing the product because it contained alcohol that did not come from a malt fermentation process, but rather from ethanol, making it ineligible for sale in the province.
Geloso said that Four Loko is expected to return to shelves soon, but called on the local manufacturer not to go ahead with that plan.
“The local manufacturer who is preparing to reintroduce Four Loko on the market must, as we have, make the right decision and not go ahead with the production and distribution of this product,” Geloso said.
Geloso Group’s announcement followed one by Quebec-based convenience store chain Couche-Tard, which decided on March 2 to voluntarily pull FCKD UP from its shelves due to what it called “recent events.”
Couche-Tard said in the statement that while selling the beverage is legal, the chain pulled it from the shelves out of a desire to act responsibly.
In a letter, Sen. Andre Pratte called on Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor to look into the potential health risks of alcoholic energy drinks.
While authorities are attempting to piece together the circumstances of the teen’s death, Pratte writes it’s not normal for teenagers to obtain a high-alcohol beverage at the local convenience store at lunch and become so intoxicated that they are not able to return to their classes for the afternoon.
Pratte said authorities must act and the federal government can look at limiting the concentration of alcohol and the size of cans, as well as new restrictions on the mixture of sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
On March 3, Educ’alcool, a non-profit that encourages moderate drinking, also appealed to Health Canada to further regulate the sale of alcoholic energy drinks.
According to executive director Hubert Sacy, it’s time for the federal government to get involved in further regulating these products, which are considered dangerous by some experts.
In an email to The Canadian Press on the weekend, Health Canada said that marketing of alcoholic beverages and point-of-sale restrictions in Canada are generally the responsibility of the provinces and territories.
But the federal Health Department is ready to work with the province to address the issue.