Just when you think the world of consumable energy products couldn't get any weirder, another surprise contender leaps into the ring. This summer, it's the energy supplement called "Coco Loko" — and parents should get to know about this new product, because it's surprisingly easy for kids and teens to get. What is Coco Loku? Snortable chocolate is apparently the hip new thing the kids are into these days — but of course, as with all fads, it's important for parents to understand the risks that come with Coco Loko.
Coco Loko is made by the Legal Lean company out of Miami, Florida, which also sells Legal Lean Syrup, a "mood-boosting drink," according to the product's website. (Translation: It's legal "sizzurp" — as in the cough syrup concoction made infamous by rapper Lil Wayne.) Labeled as "infused raw cacao snuff," I have so many questions about snortable chocolate, the first of which being - why is this even a thing?
But once you get past trying to figure out why people feel the need to snort chocolate to get an energy rush, there tumbles forth a whole host of other questions: What does it feel like when you snort it? Is it safe to snort on the regular? What happens if my kid gets into a tin of it and eats it? Representatives for Legal Lean did not immediately return Romper's request for comment, but here's what we know so far about this new energy product — and why parents should keep an eye out for it, too.
According to the Coco Loko website, the product contains raw cacao powder, so not the tasty sugar- and milk-infused similar cocoa powder you'd find in your pantry. Boasting a "proprietary blend" on its label, Legal Lean CEO Nick Anderson told Good Morning America that his product is "crazy chocolate mixed with other things that creates a crazy effect." Other ingredients in addition to the raw cacao powder, the snortable chocolate product contains guarana and taurine, stimulating natural ingredients commonly found in most energy drinks.
While this might not seem like such a big deal, it's important for parents to remember that energy drinks can really hurt kids. In a 2015 study, Live Science reported nearly 2,500 cases were reported to U.S. poison control centers involving severe adverse effects from children consuming energy drinks. These effects included everything from seizures and arrhythmia to life-threateningly high blood pressure levels. Study co-author Dr. Steven Lipshultz, the pediatrician in chief at the Children's Hospital of Michigan told Live Science how these children came across energy drinks that weren't even marketed to them: "They didn't go to a store and buy it; they found it in the refrigerator, or left by a parent or an older sibling."
Not only does Coco Loko contain many of the same ingredients as powerful energy drinks, Anderson himself told ABC News that no medical professionals were consulted in the development of his product.
I didn't consult with any medical professionals. I basically just saw what they were doing in Europe. There are no health issues, it’s been out two, three years, everyone seems fine.
Coco Loko is sold in 1.25 oz tins for about $25, which is quite the price for a little over an ounce of powdered chocolate. Anderson isn't shy about marketing his snortable chocolate to the club and party scene, touting that Coco Loko induces both an endorphin and serotonin rush, as well as "euphoric energy" and even "calm focus." It's these particular claims that have lawmakers like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer calling on the FDA to investigate snortable chocolate, as he claims the product is being marketed as a drug and could easily be obtained by unwitting children and teens.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Schumer said: "This suspect product has no clear health value. 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." As the mom of a very active pre-schooler, the idea of anything labeled "stimulant" approaching my child strikes terror into my heart. But Schumer makes a good point, calling snortable chocolate products like Coco Loko "cocaine on training wheels."
Despite such calls for federal investigation into products like snortable chocolate, there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency from the FDA to look into it. Speaking to USA Today, a spokesperson for the FDA said, "The FDA is not prepared to issue a determination regarding whether and how this product is subject to FDA jurisdiction at this time. 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."
It's also important to note that, to date, there have been no reports of children or adults getting sick or harmed from intentionally or accidentally consuming Coco Loko. And despite Schumer's bold claims, there's no proof that it would ever become "cocaine" for kids. (There are also no illegal drugs in the substance.) Here's hoping that snortable chocolate becomes a just another passing food fad, joining the ranks of cronuts, deep fried Oreos, and bubble tea — and doesn't end up sending any kids to the ER this summer.