Powdered Alcohol Legal Again For Now

On March 11, the Huffington Post reported that a powdered alcohol product had been approved for sale by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which is under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The approval of the labeling for the product brings Lipsmark, LLC, one step closer to getting Palcohol, its version of powdered alcohol, to the market, but that’s just the latest round in a year-long struggle with regulators…and there is already increasing resistance to the product at the state level around the country.

palcoholThe encapsulated alcohol powder comes in a pouch four by six inches pouch similar to those used for instant microwave rice. The alcohol is mixed with flavorings to mimic typical alcoholic beverages. There are currently four flavors ready for distribution, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Vodka and Rum, with more flavors on the way. When mixed according to the instructions on the label, each serving is equivalent to approximately one ounce of alcohol, averages around 80 calories and is gluten-free. Apparently the name was meant to imply alcohol is a friend but there are questions about whether the product will ever reach consumers, especially since some critics believe that using smaller amounts of water to liquefy the powder could result in dangerously high doses of concentrated alcohol.

Already banned in some states

The product labeling was originally approved in April of last year, but the approval was quickly withdrawn, according to The Christian Science Monitor, after questions were raised about the product by lawmakers. The initial approval was, however, enough to stir controversy according to a Palcohol video featuring company founder Mark Phillips. Although the website indicates that the company they hope to begin distributing the product this summer, several states, including Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont are considering banning the product, according to the National Council on Addiction and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Several other states are also considering similar bans.

An organization called Alcohol Justice has called on California, which has the highest consumption of alcoholic beverages in the U.S., to outlaw powdered alcohol. On the other hand, Highlander, a website connected with the University of California at Riverside says the state is mature enough to handle powdered alcohol.

Concerns about powdered alcohol

In another article, NPR quoted Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)  saying, “I am in total disbelief that our federal government has approved such an obviously dangerous product, and so, Congress must take matters into its own hands and make powdered alcohol illegal.”

Critics of the new product have cited uneasiness about children having easy access to the product which resembles Kool-Aid, a popular water flavoring beloved by generations of American children. Opponents also worry because the powder is easy to conceal, enabling users to smuggle the powder into places where alcohol is illegal for safety reasons or where the venues depend upon revenues from selling alcoholic beverages to concert goers and sports fans. Gawker suggests that this might be a boon considering the premium prices stadiums charge alcoholic beverages.

Lipsmark, LLC, developer of Palcohol, insists that banning the product will make it more attractive and even develop a black market for the powder. They suggest that children are no more vulnerable to powdered alcohol than they are to liquid alcoholic beverages, and insist that snorting would be too painful.

Powdered alcohol isn’t new

According to Smithsonian.com, powdered alcohol has been tried before and even actually exists today., Smithsonian reported. Japan’s Sato Foods Industries has been selling encapsulated alcohol to the food industry as a way to minimize food odors since the 1970s. In 1974, General Mills patented an “alcohol-containing dextrin powder.” More recently, several start-ups in Europe and the U.S. have developed consumer-ready powdered alcohol products. In 2010, a Los Angeles based company, Pulver Spirits, sought approval for a powdered alcohol, then backed down claiming it was too difficult to overcome regulatory hurdles.

While the federal hurdles may be behind them, the makers of Palcohol may have a long struggle before they can get their product into stores, as more and more states line up to ban the product before it ever reaches the consumer.

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