Saturday, December 05, 2009

The FDA Breakdown

Recently, in fact as we speak, the FDA has aggressively broached the issue of caffeine in alcoholic beverages, and vice-versa, alcohol in caffeinated beverages. Their main focus is on caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks, but it doesn’t leave beer brewed with coffee beans completely out of their target scope either.

But first, just what is the FDA? The FDA, short for Food and Drug Administration, is purportedly a nonpartisan organization that acts in the best interests of the human citizenry, and in this instance, American citizenry. I’d like to make special note of the term “nonpartisan” because in the governmental and organizational world these days, nonpartisan is usually anything but.

I understand their concern over the excessive use of alcoholic caffeinated beverages, but there-in lies the dilemma. Is alcohol+caffeine the problem or is it more about the underlying issue of excessiveness? America has always been the land of plenty from the time of our forefathers to our current economic, social, and capitalist state of everything in excess as fast as possible with no time for rest and relaxation. The potentially problematic issue of alcohol+caffeine excess is just a natural byproduct of the society which created it.

Nothing frustrates and aggravates me more than addressing a postulated problem with a solution that has nothing to do with the actual problem in the first place. It might just seem like silly common sense, but unfortunately silly common sense can be rather hard to come by. In looking beyond the surface issue to all the interweaving factors below, this recent FDA breakdown really comes across to me as a half-hearted joke that has little to do with my (and others) long-term health and well-being.

While beer is currently just a minor target, where there is a will to create smoke and fire, so to can be the desire to spread it to other unrelated button-topics. America’s duality when it comes to alcohol and leisurely pleasure is a long and arduous affair that has resulted in oft-times disastrous mistakes. I should give the FDA a benefit of the doubt, but at the same time, this stinks of misplaced priorities and pro-myopinionmattersmorethanyours interest groups.

Caffeine, a stimulant, and alcohol, a depressant, are nothing new. Enjoying them separately and in various instances over various time periods, together, is also nothing new. We haven’t flirted with extinction yet from this potentially deadly combination largely because they were enjoyed in sporadic moderation until recently. But now we are suffering from an immensely fast-paced high-strung society both in business and in pleasure to have everything right now and in spectacularly mind-boggling largesse.

For example, take the phenomenon of Red Bull and vodka, along with a slew of new cocktails that mix energy drinks with booze for the young, the hip, and the never-rests until they are face-down generation of drinkers that are as much a product of the society they live in as they have produced the society they live in. In this example, note booze, not beer. On the flip-side, a Red Bull and vodka drinker is not likely to want to savor a slow Irish Coffee late at night or a dollop of Kahlua with their morning cup-of-joe.

Since both involve caffeine and alcohol, are they not then a danger to the responsible drinker also? No, and the key reason being responsibility. The problem with responsibility is that it cannot be bought, sold, or regulated. Responsibility is taught and learned both by personal example, situation, society, culture, history, and a host of others. Responsibility is not a tool of fear and submission, or a reason for manipulation. Responsibility is a point of understanding and humility buoyed by an appreciation of life, living, and one’s place within.

Why then is alcoholic caffeinated energy drinks suddenly a danger to you and me?

In everything in life, excess will always be our downfall while moderation will always be our longevity. Granted, there are no guarantees in life, but I have yet to experience anything positive and enduring in my life that resulted from excess. If that is true, then I don’t worry so much over the FDA’s breakdown on, at this moment, energy drink companies and their caffeinated beverages so much as I worry about our currently unchained cultural affairs that have led us here.

Though beer may not be directly targeted at this moment, beer should always remain responsibly vigilant. Should I want to savor the aromatic and flavor subtleties of a beer brewed with or aged on coffee beans, I want to and should be able to do so. As I reveled in my great Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti last night over a good hour’s time, getting wired and plotzed at the same wasn’t even an inkling of an inclination. Verily, almost any real beer drinker will heartily echo my sentiments.

The sugar-soaked, artificially flavored, and chemically concocted caffeine bombs whose ingredients require a doctorate in science to understand concern and disgust me far more than a relaxing coffee stout or Irish Coffee any minute of any day of the week.

I feel for the companies under scrutiny by the FDA, but even more so, I hope that this latest crusade doesn’t detract from the real concerns that leave me standing here shaking my head in cynical disbelief and weary concern.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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