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Powdered alcohol approved by federal agency

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Palcohol receives the greenlight from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (Palcohol.com)

A powdered alcohol intended to be mixed up into drinks has gained approval from a federal regulator.

The product, called Palcohol, had received the greenlight from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau briefly last year before the bureau backtracked and said the label approvals had been given in error.

On Wednesday, bureau spokesman Tom Hogue told The Associated Press the issues were resolved and that four varieties of Palcohol were approved. But Hogue noted that states can also regulate alcohol sales in their borders.

The approval is a step forward for a small company whose product plans have already sparked controversy.

Several states have already moved to ban powdered alcohol, including lawmakers in Colorado who last month advanced legislation to temporarily halt its sale. That bill has since morphed to ensure the regulation of powdered alcohol as if it were liquid alcohol once it gets federal approval.

Concerns have included abuse by minors, the potential to snort the powder and whether Palcohol's light weight would make it easy to sneak alcohol into public events or spike drinks.

Palcohol would come in a pouch, with water being added to the powder inside for the equivalent of an alcoholic drink.

A statement on Palcohol's website says the company hopes to have the product for sale this summer. Palcohol founder Mark Phillips noted the approval of his products in an email early Wednesday morning, and said in a subsequent email that pricing hasn't yet been determined.

"We aren't commenting on production or distribution at this time," he wrote. The four products that have been approved include powdered versions of a cosmopolitan, a margarita, vodka and rum. Phillips added that he expects another Palcohol product — Lemon Drop — should also be "approved shortly."

Previously, Phillips had said he came up with the idea for Palcohol because he wanted a way to enjoy alcoholic drinks after hiking or other activities without having to lug around heavy bottles.

Hogue said the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regularly reaches out to the Food and Drug Administration to get determinations on whether a product might be considered "adulterated." If the FDA says the product isn't adulterated, he said the bureau's evaluation centers on whether labels accurately reflect what's in the product.

"Potential for abuse isn't grounds for us to deny a label," Hogue said.