For people seeking an energy boost, companies are increasing their offerings of foods with added caffeine. A new caffeinated gum may have gone too far.
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it will investigate the safety of added caffeine and its effects on children and adolescents. The agency made the announcement just as Wrigley was rolling out Alert Energy Gum, a new product that includes as much caffeine as half a cup of coffee in one piece and promises “the right energy, right now.”
Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, indicated that the proliferation of new foods with caffeine added — especially the gum, which he equates to “four cups of coffee in your pocket” — may even prompt the FDA to look closer at the way all food ingredients are regulated.
The agency already is investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.
Taylor said Monday that the only time the FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food or drink was in the 1950s for colas. The current proliferation of caffeine added to foods is “beyond anything FDA envisioned,” Taylor said.
“It is disturbing,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “We’re concerned about whether they have been adequately evaluated.”
Caffeine has the regulatory classification of “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, which means manufacturers can add it to products and then determine on their own whether the product is safe.
“This raises questions about how the GRAS concept is working, and is it working adequately,” Taylor said of the gum and other caffeine-added products.