"Palcahol" just received federal approval, despite some major concerns. Here's what you need to know

By Kylie Gilbert
Updated: March 18, 2015
Corbis Images

Remember the buzz last spring about a powdered alcohol that was accidentally approved by the feds (they only meant to sign off on the label, not the stuff inside!)? Well, nearly a year later, the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax, and Trade Bureau (TTB) has officially approved Palcohol, the first powdered form of alcohol, expected to hit liquor store shelves this summer.

Originally created as an easier and lighter (one package weights just an ounce) way for adventure lovers to transport alcohol while hiking, biking, and camping, the concept is simple enough: add six ounces of water (or a mixer) to one pouch of Palcohol (which contains the same amount of alcohol as one shot) to create a standard mixed drink. Palcohol comes in vodka and rum versions, as well as three cocktail varieties-Cosmopolitan, 'Powderita' (their take on the margarita), and Lemon Drop-which, according to the company's website, consist of dried alcohol, natural flavorings, and sucralose (an artificial sweetener). The powder itself is 80 calories per bag, plus it's gluten-free!

This all sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. Palcohol has received pretty much nothing but negative feedback since its introduction last year, with many calling it "an accident waiting to happen." Several states have already moved to ban Palcohol, worried about its potential for misuse, especially by minors.

"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," New York senator Chuck Schume said in a press release. "Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this. We simply can't sit back and wait for powdered alcohol to hit store shelves across the country, potentially causing more alcohol-related hospitalizations and, God forbid, deaths. This legislation will make illegal the production and sale of this Kool-Aid for underage drinking."

Health officials have similar concerns. "It's a delivery system we don't know anything about. We fear it will make alcohol more accessible to people who should not be consuming it, such as children and youths under 21. We are also concerned about the potential misuse of the product and the dangers associated with excessive alcohol use," says George F. Koob, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

By the look of things, Palcohol may ultimately be headed for the same fate as Four Loko, which was ultimately deemed a public health concern by the FDA (and subsequently reformulated). Until then, watch out for the boozy Kool-Aid on liquor store shelves this summer.

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