5 Products That Could Kill (Even After Being Banned)

Money, News

The following five products were all huge hits, despite being potentially deadly, which is why they are now banned.  However, their popularity means that stopping the sale of these products won’t be easy, either because secondary markets live on or because some governments refuse to ban them.

1. Four Loko

If you were anywhere near a college campus last year you might have heard of Four Loko, the caffeinated malt liquor drink. It was sold in tall cans that resembled popular energy drinks; one can contained the same amount of alcohol and caffeine as as four to six beers and four cups of coffee. After Four Loko was banned on some college campus, several state attorneys general expressed concern to the Food and Drug Administration about the effects of the drink.

As a result, the FDA notified over 20 manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that caffeine was not an approved additive to liquor.  While medical evidence is inconclusive regarding the safety (or lack thereof) of mixing alcohol and caffeine, the FDA banned caffeine as an additive to malt liquor while the issue is under investigation. The ban went it effect November 3, 2010 and caffeinated malt liquors were pulled from store shelves by early December.

Although Four Loko was reformulated and is back on shelves as of January 2011, without the caffeine, people are adding back the caffeine themselves, keeping the health hazard alive.

2. Fake Marijuana

Citing an “imminent hazard to public safety,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration instituted a year-long ban on five chemicals frequently found in synthetic cannabinoids, fake marijuana products popularly known as spice or K2. Citing a lack of quality control and regulation, the DEA will be conducting research on the chemicals and the product to evaluate possible health risks.

Often sold as incense, under names such as Funky Monkey, Afghan Kush and Serenity Now, spice contains artificial chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. The high can be many times stronger than that of marijuana, however, and has raised particular concerns around military basis where the fake pot is common since it can’t be detected in drug tests. There have been hospitalizations due to use; the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported receiving more than 1,500 calls related to spice by the end of September 2010, with effects ranging from high blood pressure and nausea to seizures and hallucinations.

Even though K2 is banned at least for one year, in the age of the Internet, people can still order K2 abroad, and some sellers are supposedly reformulating the K2 to comport with the federal ban, which could make it even more dangerous.

3. Food Dye

If you eat a strawberry-flavored cereal bar in the United Kingdom chances are its color is enhanced with natural food dyes made from beet, annatto, and paprika. In the U.S., the same cereal bar will contain dyes with names like Red 40, Yellow 5 and Orange B. A 2007 study in the British medical journal Lancet suggested a connection between artificial dyes and hyperactivity in children, and as a result first the UK and then the European Union began requiring products with artificial colors to have labels warning consumers that “consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Some artificial dyes were subsequently banned in Europe and the UK from any food meant for consumption by infants and children.

In the U.S., the FDA still asserts that there is no evidence of a correlation between artificial dyes and hyperactivity, but has scheduled a March hearing on the issue. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is asking the FDA for a synthetic food-dye ban and warnings on products until the colors are removed. The CSPI petition pointed out that artificial dyes are generally used in sugary cereals, candy, and snacks marketed to children, and the only purpose is to make the product look more appealing. The nine petroleum-based dyes currently approved for use in the U.S. are cheaper and more consistent in color than natural dyes. Some U.S. retailers are following the European model, however; neither Whole Foods nor Trader Joe’s food stores sell products containing artificial food coloring.

4. Skin Lighteners

The FDA banned cosmetic products containing mercury in 1990, but a Chicago Tribune investigation published in May of 2010 found illegal levels of the toxin, which can cause neurological damage and organ failure, in six popular imported skin-lightening creams either sold locally or ordered online. When alerted to the dangerous levels of mercury in the products, retailers agreed to pull the creams from the shelves.  In some cultures lighter skin is still considered a status symbol, and unsafe skin creams are sold world-wide and imported into the U.S. from countries such as Taiwan, India, and Pakistan. FDA spokesman Ira Allen admitted to the Chicago Tribune that with fewer than 500 inspectors reviewing imports, not all products coming into the U.S. are thoroughly inspected.

5. Drop-Side Baby Cribs

Chemicals, drugs, and food additives are unsurprisingly frequent finds on lists of banned products. But baby cribs? Yes, in June 2011 a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ban will go into effect on drop-side cribs, which will no longer be legal to manufacture, sell, or re-sell in the U.S. After millions of recalls in the last several years, the ban isn’t unexpected. Baby cribs with sides that can be raised and lowered have been blamed for 32 infant deaths since 2000, generally due to malfunctions or improper use creating a gap where a baby could become trapped.  Public facilities such as day-care centers and hotels will have two years to replace all their cribs with ones that meet the stricter new standards.