FDA Warns of the Dangers of Powdered Caffeine

There’s a big — potentially deadly — difference between consuming caffeine in coffee and consuming the pure powdered form. The FDA is raising a red flag for producers and consumers.

If you’re like many Americans, you start your day with a cup (or three) of coffee or maybe an energy drink. The jolt of caffeine those drinks provide can really help jump-start your morning.

But some people are taking their love of caffeine to a whole new level, ditching caffeinated beverages in favor of pure powdered caffeine.

But according to the Food and Drug Administration, powdered caffeine is a dangerous and powerful stimulant and ingesting too much of it can kill you.

In fact, the FDA said two healthy young men died in 2014 after overdosing on powdered caffeine purchased in bulk online.

A caffeine overdose can cause a number of serious and potentially deadly symptoms, including rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation.

A single teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is comparable to drinking 28 cups of coffee. The FDA is warning consumers that the difference between a safe dose and a toxic amount of powdered caffeine is minuscule.

“It is nearly impossible to accurately measure pure powdered caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools, and you can easily consume a lethal amount,” the FDA said.

Because powdered caffeine is typically marketed as a dietary supplement, it’s not regulated by the FDA, but that’s not stopping the agency from trying to crack down on distributors of the stimulant.

The FDA recently issued warning letters to distributors of pure powdered caffeine, Purebulk, National Food Supplements, Hard Eight Nutrition, Smartpowders and Bridge City Bulk, because the “products are dangerous and present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers.”

At issue is the recommended dosing and product labeling on the bulk products. For instance, the letter to Graham, North Carolina-based Smartpowders lays out some of the issues, including:

  • The “product is packaged to contain an amount that would be lethal to many consumers.”
  • The “packaging requires the consumer to separate out a safe serving from this potentially lethal amount.”
  • The “product labeling incorrectly implies that this process of separating out a safe serving from a potentially lethal amount can be done with a common household measuring tool (a one-quarter teaspoon), when in fact it would require a precise scale.”

The companies have 15 days to respond to the warning letters. The federal agency could seize the caffeine products or prevent producers from manufacturing it if they fail to comply with labeling requirements for all products, including those on the market.

What do you think about the FDA’s powdered caffeine warning? Are you a caffeine fanatic? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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