Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) announced Monday that he is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to formally launch an investigation into "Coco Loko," a new snortable chocolate product that contains caffeine.
Coco Loko, created by the Florida-based company Legal Lean, contains powdered chocolate with added stimulants, and users are instructed to snort the product.
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Schumer said in a press release that Coco Loko is marketed as a drug for kids and teens, arguing that it has no health benefits.
"The math for the FDA is clear: This suspect product has no clear health value," Schumer said. "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."
"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," Schumer added. "This product is like cocaine on training wheels."
Coco Loko's Amazon page description appears to prove Schumer right on how the product is advertised.
"Endorphin Rush, Serotonin Rush, Euphoric Energy," the description says, noting that the product has "no tobacco, no nicotine."
The product's website says, "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."
That does not mean that Coco Loko is safe or a good idea to use. Other than its drug-like marketing and snortable route of administration, Coco Loko was also highlighted by Schumer for another public health risk: its ingredients are often found in energy drinks, including gingko biloba, taurine, and guarana.
"Caffeine, guarana, and taurine, which can be found in ‘Coco Loko,' act as stimulants," Schumer's press release read. "According to a 2015 Mayo Clinic study, drinking one 16-ounce energy drink can increase blood pressure and stress hormone responses significantly."
The overall health risks of Coco Loko are not currently known, however.
"The question is, what are the risks of doing it?" Dr. Andrew Lane, director of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center, told the Washington Post. "There's no data, and as far as I can tell, no one's studied what happens if you inhale chocolate into your nose. When I mention it to people, nobody's ever heard of it."
Before reprinting the letter Schumer sent to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the senator's press release noted that "In the past, Schumer has been successful in getting the federal government to rein in dangerous products, especially those being marketed to young adults."
In 2015, Schumer introduced legislation to prohibit the production, sale, and possession of powdered alcohol.
Schumer feared that since powdered alcohol would be easy to conceal and could be snorted, it would create a new danger for teenagers.
On the website Consumerist, powdered alcohol creator Mark Phillips showed that "Palcohol" is too big to effectively conceal and that snorting the equivalent of one drink would take about an hour.