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The Federal Trade Commission’s mandated Four Loko labeling fails to facilitate accurate estimation of alcohol content by college student

Four Loko is a popular beverage among college students with a higher alcohol-by-volume amount than the standard malt beverages. It can be found in varying strengths with up to 5.5 standard alcoholic drinks in one single can. Currently, there is no national law that requires alcoholic beverages to label for standard drinks or include any basic consumer information. However, in 2014 the Federal Trade Commission mandated that Four Loko drinks have a label that denotes the number of standard drinks in their products. This study focuses on assessing if college students can estimate how much alcohol is in the cans that have the Federal Trade Commission mandated labels.

To complete this study, surveys were given at public universities in Florida, Montana, and Virginia. They were each given a questionnaire to fill out along with an empty 23.5 ounce Four Loko to help with them answer certain questions. The asked specifically how many 12 ounce cans of regular beer are Four Loko drinks equivalent to. They also asked questions about independent variable such as demographics, past year alcohol consumption frequency and intensity, and previous experience with Four Loko drinks.

What the researchers discovered was that even with the mandated label, the majority of Florida and Virginia students underestimated the alcohol content in this product. They also found that females were more likely to underestimate than male participants. These findings are important when educating college students on the alcohol content of Four Loko drinks. There may also be a need for stricter policies restricting this type of supersized alcoholic beverage to help reduce the number of consumers underestimating their alcohol content.

Take Away: Four Loko is a popular, supersized alcoholic beverage purchased by college students. It can contain up to 5.5 standard alcoholic drinks in one single can. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission mandated that these drinks include a label that denotes the number of standard drinks in products. This study attempts to assess if college students can estimate how much alcohol is in the cans with the mandated labels. They found that students overall underestimated the alcohol content in the product. There may need to be stricter policies restricting this type of supersized alcoholic beverage and education for students to fully understand the alcohol content of the beverages.

Hoyer, D., & Correia, C. J. (2020). Relations among motives, negative urgency, and mindfulness skills in college drinkers. Addictive Behaviors, 101, 106135. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106135

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