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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fireball Whiskey: To Drink or Not to Drink?

Fireball Whiskey: To Drink or Not to Drink?
By: Anna Blood, Intern
The Cochran Firm

Fireball Whiskey, the popular cinnamon flavored liquor is facing recent criticism due to fears over the use of propylene glycol, a chemical used in anti-freeze. Fireball has recently been recalled in Sweden, Finland and Norway after a batch of the North American recipe, which contains higher levels of propylene glycol than the European batch, was shipped there.

Fireball’s North American formula was found not to be in compliance with European regulations,
which calls for less than 1 gram per kilogram of propylene glycol while the North American formula allows up to 50 grams per kilogram of the substance. Sazerac, the New Orleans based beverage company that owns Fireball, stated that its North American formula was shipped to Europe, and one ingredient was not in compliance with European regulations.

Propylene glycol is a flavorless, odorless, synthetic substance that absorbs water and helps products maintain moisture. The substance is used as a less toxic and environmentally safer alternative to ethylene glycol, which is toxic to humans. Today, propylene glycol is widely used in food, tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics in the U.S. The substance acts as a thickener, stabilizer, and flavoring agent and is also used to create artificial smoke and e-cigarettes.
The FDA stated that propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe” and has been approved for use in food and other various products.  The substance is typically found in products that are heavily processed such as sodas, store bought cake mixes, and ice cream. However, the CDC has determined that toxic levels of the substance are almost impossible to achieve through oral consumption of consumer products.
Despite this, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry does consider propylene glycol a toxic substance. When consumed in large quantities, it can lead to some minor health problems and can increase the amount of acid in the body. According to the CDC, propylene glycol toxicity has only been reported rarely and in unusual circumstances. For example, toxicity may result from excessively large injections of propylene glycol-containing medications and when topically applied, increased sensitivity may be seen in people with pre-existing skin and eye conditions.

Sazerac defended its product by stating that, “absolutely safe to drink and the use of propylene glycol in Fireball creates no health risk whatsoever.” The substance is used as a flavoring ingredient in the whiskey and is used in very small quantities, less than one eight of the amount allowed in the U.S. Additionally, Sazerac anticipates having Fireball back on the shelves in Sweden, Norway and Finland within 3 weeks while the U.S. has no plans to ban the whiskey.

Despite the alarming concerns over its use in Fireball, propylene glycol has been used in over 4,000 food, beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products in the U.S. for more than 50 years. Most people consume propylene glycol everyday in soft drinks, sweeteners and other products. It is safe to say that even if one avoids consumption of Fireball, they cannot avoid consumption of propylene glycol all together. For consumers to truly be protected from any health risks associated with the consumption propylene glycol, it is up to the FDA, not the manufacturers of Fireball, to prevent this. 

posted by The Cochran Firm at 9:11 AM

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