FDA Taking Closer Look at Caffeine-Enhanced Products

Wrigley confident its new energy gum exceeds current regulatory requirements on labeling

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is watching closely the marketing of a growing number of caffeine-enhanced food products on the market and wants to know more about their safety, reported the Associated Press.

The FDA said Monday it will look at the foods' effects on children in part in response to a caffeinated gum introduced this week by Wrigley, Alert Energy Gum. According to Wrigley, Alert Energy is a new energy product available for adults 25 to 49 that lets people control the amount of caffeine they want on the go. The agency is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots.

In a statement provided to CSP Daily News, Denise Young, spokesperson for Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Chicago, said, "Millions of Americans consume caffeine responsibly and in moderation as part of their daily routines. Alert Energy Caffeine Gum is for adults who are looking for foods with caffeine for energy and contains 40mg a piece, about half a cup of coffee. We are exceeding current regulatory requirements on labeling and disclosure because we believe consumers should be informed on the amount of caffeine they are consuming in their food and beverage products so they can make smart choices. Alert competes in the well-established energy category. It is developed for adults and will be marketed to consumers 25 and older."

She added, "As the FDA refines its approach to caffeine, we welcome the opportunity to work with them on this important topic."

Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, said that the only time 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," he told AP. "It is disturbing," he said. "We're concerned about whether they have been adequately evaluated."

Taylor said the agency will look at the potential impact these "new and easy sources" of caffeine will have on children's health and will take action if necessary. He said that he and other FDA officials have held meetings with some of the large food companies that have ventured into caffeinated products, including McLean, Va.-based Mars Inc., of which Wrigley is a subsidiary.

Food manufacturers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods in recent years, said the report.

Critics say it is not enough for the companies to say they are marketing the products to adults when the caffeine is added to items like candy that are attractive to children.

Taylor said the agency would look at the added caffeine in its totality--while one product might not cause adverse effects, the increasing number of caffeinated products on the market, including drinks, could mean more adverse health effects for children.