The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told Las Vegas-based Redux Beverages - the maker of controversial energy drink Cocaine - that the powder-like font that adorns its products and marketing contravenes federal law and must be changed.
A spokesperson for Redux said the company was surprised by the FDA's decision because the company and regulator had been working together for almost a year to ensure the product's marketing complied with FDA regulations.
In its letter, FDA said the combination of the name of the product, the manner in which it was written, as well as the use of words like 'cut' to describe a light version, added up to a product that was being marketed as an illicit drug alternative.
The word 'cut' constituted, "well-known terminology associated with and suggestive of illicit drug use."
The warning came despite the fact each Cocaine product - which contains 350 per cent more caffeine than market leader Red Bull - carried the statement: "This product is not intended to be anything more than an energy drink."
FDA had issued Redux with a warning letter over its marketing methods and slogans such as "the legal alternative" in the first half of 2007, which led to Redux temporarily withdrawing the product and making wholesale changes to the manner in which it promoted its products.
It was temporarily reissued as No Name but the name Cocaine was restored in February after working with the FDA.
The product has also been launched in the UK as Ocke Cokey.
Redux thought it had done enough to please FDA but was issued with a notification recently over the "chalk-like" font used on its products.
The manufacturer, which also makes Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator, an energy drink based on a film, took issue with the FDA's decision but said it would comply with the decision by the end of July, noting it had been planning a marketing makeover in early 2009 anyway.
In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response, Redux questioned the logic behind the FDA's latest missive.
"School teachers everywhere should now be on notice that things written in chalk will be scrutinized more closely by the federal government and could subject the chalk-bearer to civil and criminal liability," it said.
Redux founder james Kirby added: "If there is any justice our struggles with the FDA will become a rallying cry against the wasteful practices and upside-down priorities of the federal government."
The company noted the fonts it had been employing were official fonts called "Squeaky Chalk Sound" and "Boring Lesson" that were designed by a German font design firm.
"Why is the FDA wasting its precious resources complaining about what fonts Redux is using to advertise our product?" Kirby wondered.
Cocaine was launched in 2006 and immediately attracted a lot of attention over its racy moniker and marketing, not to mention the fact it contained the caffeine equivalent of 3.5 cups of coffee (280mg per can), a minor point the FDA has never taken umbrage with.
Redux has also been accused of adding ingredients such as wasabi and cinnamon to mimic the throat and mouth-numbing effect of consuming the narcotic cocaine.
But Clegg Ivey, general counsel for Redux, noted the FDA had never accused Redux of adding anything harmful to its product.
He said Redux would continue to work with the regulator.
"Despite the fact that we find the FDA claims to be ridiculous," Ivey said, "we have worked hard to address their concerns. The most expedient way to deal with their issues is to change the aspects of our marketing that enable them to mischaracterize our intentions - except for the name, of course, which the First Amendment gives us the right to keep and which they will have to pry from our cold, dead hands."