FDA Will Investigate Safety of Added Caffeine in Foods

The Food and Drug Administration is interested in how products with caffeine added in — like caffeinated gum — affect children and adolescents.

FDA Will Investigate Safety of Added Caffeine in Foods Photo (cc) by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

The Food and Drug Administration is already investigating the safety of energy drinks, which can contain twice as much caffeine per serving as a cup of coffee.

Now they’re taking a look at other products designed to give consumers a quick shot of caffeine. It’s a growing trend in the food industry, such as the new Wrigley’s chewing gum that contains as much caffeine as four cups of coffee in one pack.

“Caffeine is even being added to jelly beans, marshmallows, sunflower seeds and other snacks for its stimulant effect,” wrote FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. “The proliferation of these products is very disturbing.”

“We believe that some in the food industry are on a dubious, potentially dangerous path,” he added.

Companies adding caffeine to products have already begun giving the FDA their explanations, and the government has requested comment from two industry groups, the American Beverage Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The recommended tolerable intake of caffeine is 400 milligrams per day (roughly five cups of coffee) for healthy adults, but the FDA has no recommendations for children, whom it worries are being targeted by these products. Instead, it points to the stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which discourages parents from allowing children and adolescents to have caffeine or other stimulants.

The FDA will consider setting boundaries on caffeine, although Taylor says age restrictions are impractical and unlikely. There are no current rules about adding caffeine as long as manufacturers believe it is safe. However, Taylor says the agency hadn’t anticipated a widespread trend of adding it to everything from pancake syrup to gum.

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