Will powdered alcohol be on store shelves soon?

Palcohol, the brand name given to a new powdered alcohol product, is currently waiting in the wings of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pending…
Will powdered alcohol be on store shelves soon?

Powdered alcohol may one day be in stores near you. Is Palcohol safe? (Shutterstock)

Palcohol, the brand name given to a new powdered alcohol product, is currently waiting in the wings of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pending approval. Though this isn’t the first powdered alcohol product to be developed, it is the first such beverage powder to make its way toward stores in the United States.

Early reports indicated the FDA had already approved Palcohol, but — possibly due to backlash on the health implications — FDA representative Tom Hogue,  said in an email late Monday that the approvals were issued in error, according to the AP.

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“An oversight of this nature does not ring true to me,” said Robert Lehrman, who runs a beverage law website. He suggested that the bureau may have heard back from lawmakers wanting more information on the powdered alcohols, forcing the FDA to rescind approvals.

The company manufacturing Palcohol stated the FDA retraction of approval had to do with labeling issues; “There seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag,” they said in a statement.

What is the point of powdered alcohol?

Powdered alcohol has one purpose: convenience. People looking to have an alcoholic beverage at an event or gathering wouldn’t have to worry about buying a case of beer or bulky drink mixes. All it would take is a one-ounce packet and you could mix the contents into almost any regular beverage, anywhere.

Palcohol, should it ever make it to store shelves, will offer six varieties of powdered alcohol, including vodka, rum and four cocktails — Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop. The process behind the powdered beverage is relatively simple as far as chemists are concerned; certain carbohydrates–in this case certain sugars–are used to trap alcohol molecules. Those carbohydrates are then kept in a sealed container to maintain their powdered state and to allow a small, convenient packet for transport.

“It has now been discovered that certain carbohydrate materials, when suitably modified with respect to physical form, will, in the presence of significant amounts of water, absorb large quantities of alcohol to form stable, flowable carbohydrate powders containing up to 60 percent by weight ethanol,” the patent request suggested, as reported by VICE. “Significantly, certain of these alcohol-containing powders will readily dissolve in cold water to form low-viscosity, clear, colorless, alcoholic solutions.”


Inventors of Palcohol say they want to be able to be active people and still enjoy an adult beverage without carrying around extra bottles. (Shutterstock)

But it’s not the convenience that has skeptics wondering about the FDA’s withdrawal of the product. According to the Palcohol website, one of the primary concerns with powdered alcohol is the potential for people to snort the product rather than use it as directed.

The original Palcohol website, which has since been altered, stated, “What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost … Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.”

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In an effort to prevent people from snorting the product, Palcohol makers added, “…precautions against this action, we’ve added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain.”

Palcohol’s inventor, Mark Phillips, indicated he created the product because, as an active adult, he wanted to be able to enjoy an adult beverage while hiking, biking, or camping without having to carry the extra weight of bottles and cans.