Alcohol Containing Energy Drinks Mistakenly Sold To Minors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 25, 2007) – Store clerks regularly mistake alcohol-containing energy drinks with similar non-alcoholic beverages and inadvertently, but illegally, sell them to minors, an investigation by the Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has found.

Investigators from the ABC’s Enforcement Division recently noted that store clerks, apparently confused by the similarities in packaging, often do not recognize that they are selling an alcohol-containing beverage when they ring up a purchase of the energy drinks.

The energy drinks, which are malt beverages, are packaged differently from typical alcoholic beverages, often with bright colors and graphics that make them appear like a non-alcoholic energy drink. Compounding the problem, these drinks often contain higher alcoholic content than most other malt beverages – as much as eight percent. The alcohol-containing energy drinks may be found in grocery stores and convenience markets – anywhere that beer can be sold.

“This new line of alcoholic beverage product is extremely similar in look and feel to the popular energy drinks that contain no alcohol,” said ABC Executive Director Chris Lilly. “It is critical that servers, sellers, and consumers know and understand the difference.

“Our youth are at risk when clerks and retailers can not differentiate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages being sold,” he said

ABC enforcement director Jim Tipton said officers have observed clerks sell alcoholic energy drinks to minors without recognizing that they are selling a malt beverage to someone under the age of 21. That does not relieve them of responsibility, he said.

“It is the responsibility of the licensee to ensure that all employees are aware of the products they are selling, alcoholic or not.,” Tipton said. “Citations and criminal or administrative penalties may be the consequence of these infractions. This is an issue our officers will continue to monitor closely.”

ABC is adding information regarding energy drinks to its alcoholic beverage server training program known as STAR (Server Training in Alcohol Regulations). Businesses interested in receiving formal training on all alcohol sales and laws that relate should contact the ABC about the S.T.A.R. training, or visit the website, http://abc.ky.gov/education.

ABC is an agency of the Department of Public Protection in the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. The mission of ABC is to protect the public welfare and interest by regulating the alcoholic beverage industry in the commonwealth through licensing, education and enforcement of pertinent laws and regulations.


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