New “snortable” cocoa powder called Coco Loko promises an energy and mood boost for its consumers. But Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the product for potential health risks.
“It sounds sweet but the health consequences could be anything but,” Schumer said at a news conference Sunday evening. “I call this product ‘cocaine on training wheels’ ... I’m asking the FDA to snuff it out immediately.”
Coco Loko is marketed as “infused raw cacao snuff” by its manufacturer Legal Lean, an Orlando-based nutrition company that makes dietary supplements. Instructions for the product say consumers should snort the powder directly into their noses. The product, which has not been approved by the FDA, is already available on Amazon, on Legal Lean’s website and in some liquor stores.
Coco Loko contains an unknown amount of caffeine (from raw cacao) as well as guarana and taurine, two stimulants that were found in the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko until 2010, when its manufacturer removed the ingredients after the beverage played a role in a number of young adult hospitalizations and deaths.
Physicians have already expressed their concerns about Coco Loko.
“There is no other food product that’s ever been marketed or approved to be inhaled,” said Ethan Wiener, Division Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “We’ve known stimulants to be addictive and to have certain behavioral effects. It’s [potentially hazardous] for the developing brain and kids with breathing problems like asthma.”
An FDA investigation would serve as a preventative measure so that consumers, particularly parents and their children, are aware of the full effects that Coco Loko has on the human body before they decide to make a purchase.
Schumer said in a press release that continually snorting substances can lead to a weaker immune system and cause cold-like symptoms as well as damage to the lining of the nose. At the bottom of Legal Lean’s website, a disclaimer tells potential buyers to “consume responsibly” and warns that its products are not intended for children or pregnant women, as they may lead to drowsiness and health problems.
“The FDA is not prepared to issue a determination regarding whether and how this product is subject to FDA jurisdiction at this time,” according to a statement from the FDA. “In reaching that decision, FDA will need to evaluate the product labeling, marketing information, and/or any other information pertaining to the product’s intended use.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story should have noted that Four Loko removed guarana, taurine and caffeine in 2010.