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Why the FDA Needs to Regulate Caffeine in Energy Drinks

You might say it’s about time to jolt the federal government into taking a closer look at energy drinks. Dozens of the nation’s top nutrition researchers and food scientists recently petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the alarming amount of caffeine in many energy drinks. The following is an excerpt of what those professionals wrote as a research review document to the FDA, including clear action steps for addressing a health consumer issue that affects a significant amount of pre-teens, teens and adults.

Roland R. Griffiths, a Ph.D. researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, was the lead author of the review and petition, here's what it said:

“The review analyzes several problems related to the use and marketing of energy drinks, with information and suggestions we hope will be helpful for the development of FDA regulatory policy regarding this relatively new and rapidly growing segment of consumer products.

“Briefly, the energy drink market has grown exponentially in recent years, with increasing numbers of children and adolescents exposed to the aggressive marketing of literally hundreds of different brands. There are increasing reports of “caffeine intoxication” from energy drinks. The combined use of energy drinks and alcohol (including caffeinated alcoholic beverages, such as MillerCoors’ Sparks) has increased sharply, and studies suggest that such combined use may increase the rate of alcohol-related injury. Also of concern are data indicating that the use of energy drinks may serve as a transition to the non-medical use of prescription stimulants.

“The new report found products that contain caffeine in amounts equivalent to more than 14 12-oz cans of Coca-Cola Classic or five 6-oz. cups of coffee. Many energy drinks exceed the 0.02% caffeine limit specified by FDA for soft-drinks and cola-type beverages.”


“We encourage FDA to consider regulating the labeling and composition of energy drinks in light of the reality of the marketplace:

“1. Companies should be required to label the caffeine content of caffeinated energy drinks (and other caffeine-containing products). That practice has received wide support, including from the American Medical Association, and is voluntarily employed by a growing number of major manufacturers. This issue relates to a petition filed in 1997 that requested labeling of caffeine content. The case for caffeine labeling is now more urgent because of the new and growing category of highly caffeinated energy drinks.

“2. Because of the harmful effects of excess caffeine intake and in light of the current marketplace, the FDA should replace the current, unenforced 0.02% caffeine limit with a higher limit that is actually enforced.

“3. The FDA should require warning labels, similar to those mandated for over-the-counter caffeine products, on foods, beverages and dietary supplements containing more than a specified level of caffeine. When appropriate, the warning should indicate the risk of combining these products with alcohol.”

For more scientific-based articles like this one, visit Bob Condor's Altern ative Health Blog on Alternative Health Journal!

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