FDA Investigates Safety of Added Caffeine to Variety of Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will reexamine the safety of caffeine added to foods.  The decision was prompted by the release of a new caffeinated gum called Alert, manufactured by Wrigley, which hit markets Monday.

The last time FDA looked at caffeine as a food additive was in the 1950s when the agency set a limit on the amount of the substance that could be added to colas. Caffeine is on the agency’s list of ingredients that are  ”generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) when it comprises .02 percent of a cola beverage, but has not been regulated in other contexts.

Energy drinks are often exempt from the .02 percent limit because they are considered dietary supplements rather than food or drink.

Between 2004 and 2012, five people died after consuming Monster drinks, according to data from FDA. During this time period, 21 people experienced “adverse effects” after drinking Red Bull, although no deaths were reported.  In Canada, three deaths were reported after the consumption of Red Bull between 2003 and 2012.

Because so many artificially caffeinated food and drinks have hit the market since the time FDA considered caffeine in cola, FDA is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on the health of children and adolescents.