Health Canada to launch consultations on how high-alcohol mixed drinks should be sold

Health Canada will announce public consultations Monday to stop sugary, alcoholic drinks like FCKD UP and Four Loko from being sold in their current format, Radio-Canada has learned.

Alcohol content and format of drinks under scrutiny

It is currently legal to sell malt-based beverages, even those with high alcohol content, in dépanneurs and grocery stores. (CBC)

Health Canada will announce public consultations Monday to stop sugary, alcoholic drinks like FCKD UP and Four Loko from being sold in their current format, Radio-Canada has learned.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the consultations are to reduce the percentage of alcohol in the drinks or the format they are sold in.

For example, Four Loko is sold in 568 ml cans, costs about $3.50 and the alcohol is 11.9 per cent.

"I am deeply concerned about the increasing accessibility and appeal of high-sugar, high-alcohol drinks in individual doses and the increasing number of young people admitted to hospital after consuming these products," Petitpas Taylor said.

She also asked that Health Canada meet with provincial governments to discuss advertising, marketing and labelling that would reduce the health risks associated with these drinks. 

Consultations are expected to last 45 days.

Discussions in Quebec

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said earlier this month that "it is Health Canada's responsibility to make a formal announcement to limit products that pose health risks."

Last week, the province announced that it would move to ban the sale of pre-mixed malt-based beverages containing more than seven per cent alcohol from anywhere other than the provincial liquor stores, commonly known as the SAQ.

The decision came two weeks after Athena Gervais, 14, died after she reportedly consumed a can of FCKD UP on her school lunch break.

Currently, dépanneurs and grocery stores are permitted to sell malt-based beverages and some wines, while the sale of all other alcohol is limited to the SAQ.

In a statement, SAQ spokesperson Mathieu Gaudreault said while the SAQ welcomes the ban on selling the potent, sugar-filled drinks in dépanneurs and grocery stores, it has not yet agreed to sell them in its outlets.

The company that produces FCKD UP has since halted production, but similar beverages are still on the market. 

The manufacturer of American-made Four Loko has already announced that its products will not return to Quebec shelves "until further notice." They were removed late last year.

With files from Radio-Canada's Philippe-Vincent Foisy