Is it Time for FDA to Regulate Caffeine?

Published in CSP Daily News

NPR looks at “the rise of caffeinated foods”

NEW YORK -- In a recent report, National Public Radio suggested it may be time for the Food & Drug Administration to regulate caffeine in an All Things Considered report titled “The Rise of Caffeinated Foods.” Here is a summary of the report:

That buzz from your morning cup of joe waning? How about a quick boost from caffeinated mints, gum, Perky Jerky or, from the makers of Cracker Jack, coffee-flavored Cracker Jack'd snacks?

It's not just coffee and tea and soda anymore. "There's a proliferation of foods; all kinds of things are now being caffeinated," said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In many cases, manufacturers are promoting their foods as pick-me-ups, but they're not labeling how much caffeine is included in the products. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not require it. And that's raising some questions about how much caffeine we're getting these days.

"I think at a minimum the FDA should require the amount of caffeine to be disclosed on product labels," said Jacobson. And some caffeine researchers seem to agree.

"Caffeine is a drug," said Abraham Palmer of the University of Chicago. And partly because of genetic differences, "there's a lot of variation in the way people experience the effects of caffeine."

Given that some people are sensitive to even small shifts in caffeine consumption, Palmer said it would be helpful to consumers if manufacturers had to label amounts. "It's hard for me to see what the downside would be," said Palmer.

Jacobson raised a stink when Frito-Lay announced plans for its new line of snacks called Cracker Jack'd, some of which will contain coffee.

But Frito-Lay said it is not marketing these products to children. "All marketing for the products will be exclusively aimed at adult consumers," Alexia Allina of Frito-Lay said in an email. "And the presence of coffee and the caffeine that comes with it is clearly called out on both the front and back of the package."

Owing to the varying caffeine content of coffee, Frito-Lay said the caffeine content in its snack may vary, too. But in general, it expects the snack to contain approximately 70 mg (equivalent to about two-thirds of a cup of coffee) of caffeine in each 2-ounce package.

Click here to read the complete NPR report.