Snortable chocolate is a terrible idea, doctor and US senator agree

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 1:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 6:43pm

A snortable chocolate powder is drawing fire from a doctor and a top US senator.

Orlando-based Legal Lean is selling a powdered chocolate, meant to be snorted, under the name Coco Loko. It’s for sale on Legal Lean’s website, as well as Amazon, where a 35 gram container costs US$24.99.

At least one Orlando-area doctor said snorting cocoa powder may cause harm, while US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, sent a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration on Monday calling for an investigation into Coco Loko.

“The math for the FDA is clear: This suspect product has no clear health value. It is falsely held up to be chocolate, when it is a powerful stimulant. And they market it like a drug – and they tell users to take it like a drug, by snorting it,” said a statement from Schumer.

Normalising stimulants and drug consumption-like behaviour is anything but harmless for our young people
US Senator Chuck Schumer

“It is crystal clear that the FDA needs to wake up and launch a formal investigation into so-called Coco Loko before too many of our young people are damaged by it.”

Schumer said he’s worried Coco Loko is being marketed like a drug and could appeal to children.

“Normalising stimulants and drug consumption-like behaviour is anything but harmless for our young people,” Schumer said.

Legal Lean founder Nick Anderson said he learnt about snorting cocoa powder from online videos posted by Europeans. Coco Loko has been on sale for about a month.

“It’s a raw cocoa and chocolate snuff,” Anderson told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s a big trend in Europe, and I was thinking there would probably be a big demand for it here.”

The substance is made from raw cacao powder (from cacao pods) and energy drink ingredients such as taurine and guarana, which have raised alarm regarding their effect on young people when used in large quantities.

But even if Coco Loko contains products that can be ingested in energy drinks or food, snorting it could cause serious problems, said Dr Julie Wei, head of the ear, nose and throat division at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando.

“You are not meant to have anything up your nose,” Wei said. “There are going to be some health consequences because of the way it is absorbed into the mucous membrane of the nose.”

The nose’s sensitivity and absorption ability are why it’s a popular delivery path for cocaine and other drugs, Wei said. It’s also the reason that tobacco snuff was once popular in the United States.

Powdered substances can be harmful if they reach the lungs, she said, and children could also be drawn to Coco Loko because of its chocolate flavouring.

Wei couldn’t recall any other consumer products that are meant to be snorted.

The Coco Loko packaging and website states “18+”.

“I’m not a medical doctor,” Anderson said. “But I would tell people to use caution and not use more than the recommended amount.”

He compared Coco Loko with energy drinks, but with more “euphoria”.

A Belgian company called The Chocolate Line has been selling snortable chocolate since 2007 and has even developed a “chocolate shooter”, essentially a small catapult to fling cocoa powder into a user’s nostrils.