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New Product Dubbed “Coco Loko” Isn’t Even Pure Chocolate—It’s Actually Powerful Energy Drink Ingredients That Risk Havoc On The Bodies Of Kids & Teens—But Its Already Hit Store Shelves & NY Is Next

Snortable Faux Chocolate Promises “Endorphin & Serotonin Rush,” & “Ecstasy” For “Party Goers”; Company Hasn’t Even Consulted A Single Doc; Schumer Says FDA Must Step In

Schumer To FDA: They Market It Like A Drug & You Take It Like A Drug—You Do The Math

Amidst growing concern from both parents and medical professionals, and with too many unanswered questions by the company, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to formally launch an investigation into “Coco Loko,” a new product being marketed to adolescents as snortable “chocolate” – that isn’t real chocolate at all. Instead, this product contains powerful energy drink stimulants and instructs the consumer to snort them directly through the nasal cavity.

“The math for the FDA is clear: This suspect product has no clear health value. It is falsely held up to be chocolate, when it is a powerful stimulant. And they market it like a drug – and they tell users to take it like a drug, by snorting it. It is crystal clear that the FDA needs to wake up and launch a formal investigation into so-called Coco Loko before too many of our young people are damaged by it,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

“I can’t think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses,” said Schumer. “This product is like cocaine on training wheels.”

Schumer added, “‘Coco Loko’ isn’t even pure chocolate at all. Instead, it is chock full of concentrated energy drink ingredients masked and marketed under the innocence of natural and safe chocolate candy. Parents and doctors don’t want kids snorting anything at all, especially not dangerous stimulants proven to wreak havoc on the bodies and brains of young kids and teens. That’s why the FDA must formally investigate this dangerous ‘party goer’ fad before it hurts our kids, not after. We all remember how ‘Four Loko’ caused a number of deaths, and so, we had the FDA step in and stop companies from selling the product. Likewise, the FDA should step in and investigate ‘Coco Loko’ before its sweet, yet empty, promises become potentially bitter tragedies.”

‘Coco Loko’ is currently unregulated, but has already hit store shelves and is readily available online. Schumer explained that while the overall health risks are still unknown, the product isn’t pure chocolate and he voiced concern about the company’s promise of an “endorphin and serotonin rush” and feeling of “ecstasy” under the guise of chocolate. The product is being marketed as a snortable chocolate powder, however, in actuality the product contains concentrated ingredients commonly found in energy drinks: gingko biloba, taurine and guarana. A Florida-based supplement company, Legal Lean, has developed the product for America and describes it as a raw cacao snuff.

Schumer slammed the product as a, “brazen example of ‘narcotic marketing’ – a product that is marketed like a drug, as well as made to be consumable like a drug and seem cool to teens and young people.” And added, “Normalizing stimulants and drug consumption-like behavior is anything but harmless for our young people.”

According to the Legal Lean website, the product provides consumers with an endorphin rush, a serotonin rush, euphoric energy and calm focus. The company says the product will produce “an elevated mood and a state of euphoria similar to the feeling of ecstasy.” Schumer noted the similarity of that phrase and the actual drug, ecstasy, which the makers formally note.

The site also says the “raw cacao will give you a steady rush of euphoric energy and motivation that is great for party goers to dance the night away without a crash.” Schumer noted how this is precisely how one might glorify cocaine culture – without noting the profound downsides to that harmful and powerful narcotic. According to reports, the company also says that the effects last approximately 30 minutes to an hour and that it “is probably equal to about two energy drinks.” Although the product has not yet been approved by the FDA, it is being sold on Amazon and in some liquor stores and smoke shops.

The health risks surrounding “Coco Loko” are still unknown. The company says it did not consult with any medical professionals when producing the product and its website does not provide any information on caffeine content. According to the CDC, the stimulants in energy drinks can be harmful to the nervous system. Caffeine, guarana and taurine, which can be found in “Coco Loko,” act as stimulants. According to a 2015 Mayo Clinic study, drinking one 16-ounce energy drink can increase blood pressure and stress hormone responses significantly. Moreover, the study expressed concern that these response changes could increase the risk of cardiovascular events. In 2007, 1,145 adolescents aged 12-17 went to the emergency room for an energy drink related emergency; in 2011 that number climbed to 1,499. Schumer said this is particularly concerning because this product is supposed to be insufflated directly into the nasal cavity.

Schumer also pointed out the health effects, as reported by medical professionals and recovery centers, related to the continued snorting of substances. These include constant cold-like symptoms, bloody noses and a decreased ability to fend off exposure to germs, as the nose helps prevent particles from entering the body. The chemicals in products like “Coco Loko” can also deteriorate the lining of the nose and cause unrepairable damage to its lining.

In 2015, the FDA issued a warning about pure powdered caffeine, which was being marketed to consumers. The FDA recommended avoiding the product because pure caffeine is a stimulant and can cause an accidental overdose. According to the FDA, symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. “Coco Loko” is made using raw cacao and therefore naturally contains some amounts of caffeine; tablespoon of cocoa beans is equivalent to 12 mg of caffeine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents aged 12-18 not exceed 100 mg of caffeine day, or the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee. Legal Lean has not stated how much caffeine is in its product.

In the past, Schumer has been successful in getting the federal government to rein in dangerous products, especially those being marketed to young adults. For instance, after Schumer’s push, the FDA banned alcoholic drinks infused with caffeine, including products like “Four Loko” and “Joose.” In 2012, following Schumer’s push, the FDA sent a warning letter to the makers of “Aeroshot,” caffeine inhalers, saying that the labeling is false and misleading because the product cannot be ingested and inhaled. Following this warning, the makers agreed to make changes to its labels.

Similarly, Schumer today voiced grave concern for the continued retail sale and marketing of “Coco Loko.” Schumer is urging the FDA to investigate “Coco Loko” before it hurts or kills anyone. His letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb appears below.

Dear Commissioner:

I write to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action and investigate the use caffeine in inhalable food products. For the past several years, the FDA has worked to better understand caffeine consumption and to determine safe levels for total consumption. Unfortunately, the significant threat associated with inhalable caffeine warrant expedited action.

As you know, when caffeine is consumed in unsafe quantities, a myriad of adverse symptoms accompany intake. Such symptoms include nervousness, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure will contribute to dehydration and exacerbate both heart problems and nerve disorders. According to the FDA, the average adult has an intake of 200 mg of caffeine per day, the amount in two 5-ounce cups of coffee. The FDA reports that a safe amount of daily caffeine for an adult is 4-5 cups of coffee or 400 mg of caffeine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), while caffeine has been shown to enhance physical performance in adults, these effects are extremely variable, dose dependent, and most importantly, have not been thoroughly studied in children and adolescents. The AAP discourages children and adolescents from having any caffeine because of the potentially harmful developmental and addictive effects of the stimulant.

Inhalable caffeine, specifically, has several implications for the health of its intended consumers. According to a recent article released by ABC, doctors warned that inhaling caffeine that is combined with other powdered food could cause concern for individuals with asthma and has serious implications for the lung health in all individuals.

In a 2012 letter to the creator of Aeroshot, the FDA noted several violations that are consistent with current inhalable caffeine products on the market. Inconsistent branding and a lack of evidence regarding the safety of inhalation are noteworthy concerns that must be fully investigated.

Caffeine’s addition to every day foods is a growing trend that could potentially pose health risks to Americans, especially children. Currently, caffeine is generally recognized as safe in soft drinks up to a 0.02 percent, or 200 parts per million. We must do all we can to ensure that our food products do not pose an unknowing risk to children’s health if they consume caffeine in this new, potentially dangerous way. As the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of food products for Americans, I implore you investigate inhalable caffeine so that we may avoid exposing our families and children to any unnecessary harm.


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer