Too much caffeine has FDA worried, considering regulations - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Too much caffeine in food has FDA worried, considering regulations

Jelly beans are one of many foods that have had caffeine added to them. (Source: Evam-Amos/Wikimedia) Jelly beans are one of many foods that have had caffeine added to them. (Source: Evam-Amos/Wikimedia)

(RNN) - Caffeine is being added to foods more and more these days. But the caffeine craze has caused the Food and Drug Administration to look into the possibility regulating America's favorite drug.

Last week, Wrigley announced it will release a new gum that will contain a half cup of coffee's worth in each stick. The new "energy gum" is just one example of a recent trend that has seen caffeine added to everything from granola bars to jelly beans, and even water.

However, the FDA says that so many caffeinated foods could be harmful, especially to children, and the agency plans to investigate the effects.

"Our concern is about caffeine appearing in a range of new products, including ones that may be attractive and readily available to children and adolescents, without careful consideration of their cumulative impact," said Michael R. Taylor, the deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, in a press release.

"The proliferation of these products in the marketplace is very disturbing to us," he added.

Taylor claimed that so much caffeine added to foods put children at risk of "excess caffeine consumption" and that the agency needs to better understand the effects, as well as determine what are safe consumption levels.

In the Q & A press release, Taylor was asked if it is possible that the FDA would set age restrictions for purchasing of caffeine.

"We have to be practical; enforcing age restrictions would be challenging," he said. "For me, the more fundamental questions are whether it is appropriate to use foods that may be inherently attractive and accessible to children as the vehicle to deliver the stimulant caffeine and whether we should place limits on the amount of caffeine in certain products."

The concern over caffeine comes at a time when various levels of government have been at odds with beverage manufacturers over caffeine regulation.

In April, a congressional study titled, What's All the Buzz About? claimed that many energy drinks were misleadingly labeled as "dietary supplements" and often target-marketed toward adolescents. The drinks also contained high amounts of caffeine that were deemed harmful by the FDA.

"Caffeine toxicity is a concern, especially for children and adolescents, who are the frequently targeted demographic for energy drink companies," the report said.

The report also cited the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said "caffeine can produce harmful health effects in adolescents, including cardiovascular problems, anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, dehydration, and others."

Attempts to regulate caffeine are not new. As the libertarian-leaning magazine Reason pointed out, cries to regulate the drug have been around since at least 1980 when the FDA began looking into regulating added caffeine in foods.

No new regulations were created from the FDA proceedings. However, the agency has been more vigilant in recent years when it urged caffeinated alcohol producers to remove caffeine from their drinks.

A federal ban was not issued, but several states, including Washington, Michigan, and Oklahoma, outlawed the drinks.

Taylor said that any new regulations would take much time and resources, but the FDA is ready to take the steps it deems necessary.

"We believe that some in the food industry are on a dubious, potentially dangerous path," he said. "If necessary, and if the science indicates that it is warranted, we are prepared to go through the regulatory process to establish clear boundaries and conditions on caffeine use."

He added "We are also prepared to consider enforcement action against individual products as appropriate."

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