Trail mix. Potato chips. And now gum.
With a growing number of foods boasting added caffeine for an energy boost, the Food and Drug Administration says it’s time to investigate their safety.
The FDA’s new look at added caffeine and its effects on children and adolescents is in response to a caffeinated gum introduced this week by Wrigley. Called Alert Energy Gum, it promises “The right energy, right now.” The agency is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.
Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, said Monday that the only time FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food or drink was in the 1950’s for colas. The current proliferation of caffeine added to foods is “beyond anything FDA envisioned,” Taylor said.
“It is disturbing,” Taylor said in an interview with The Associated Press. “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 Mars Co., which owns Wrigley.
Wrigley and other companies adding caffeine to their products have labeled them as for adult use only. A spokeswoman for Wrigley, Denise M. Young, said the gum is for “adults who are looking for foods with caffeine for energy” and each piece contains about 40 mg, or the equivalent amount found in half a cup of coffee. She said the company will work with FDA.
“Millions of Americans consume caffeine responsibly and in moderation as part of their daily routines,” Young said.
Food manufacturers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods in recent years. Jelly Belly “Sport Beans,” for example, have 50 mg of caffeine in each 100-calorie pack, while Arma Energy Snx markets trail mix, chips and other products.
Critics say it’s 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. Major medical associations have warned that too much caffeine can be dangerous for children, who have less ability to process the stimulant than adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics says caffeine has been linked to harmful effects on young people’s developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.
“Could caffeinated macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal be next?” said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which wrote the FDA a letter concerned about the number of foods with added caffeine last year. “One serving of any of these foods isn’t likely to harm anyone. The concern is that it will be increasingly easy to consume caffeine throughout the day, sometimes unwittingly, as companies add caffeine to candies, nuts, snacks and other foods. “
Trail mix. Potato chips. And now gum.
Doctor on call
Call it the wave of the future or maybe a return to ancient practice. Dr. Stephen Carson’s medical practice sounds a little like both.
Two-year extension seen for canceled health plans
The Obama administration will allow a two-year extension for people whose individual health insurance policies don’t comply with requirements of the new health care law, helping to defuse a politically difficult election-year issue for Democrats.
Health law fix for state-run websites
The Obama administration quietly issued a health law fix Thursday to help states that have had technical problems running their own enrollment websites. It could stir up critics but may help the law’s supporters.
Does your insurance plan cover self-inflicted injuries?
Dealing with a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. Some health plans make the experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide or an attempt - even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren't permitted under federal law.
Six reasons childhood obesity has fallen so much
A major new paper appearing in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that childhood obesity - age 2 to 5 - has fallen from 13.9 percent in 2003-04 to 8.4 percent in 2011-12.
You can examine your doctor's record, but don't expect to learn everything
Recently a reader wrote me to ask how patients can perform background checks on their doctors, to make sure that they're in good standing. He had a reason for asking: A few years ago, he said, he'd agreed to have a spinal fusion performed by an apparently well-regarded surgeon.
The science of workout music
You're bundling up for a chilly morning run. Or about to climb on the elliptical for a high-energy workout. Or warming up before a weightlifting session.
What's the first thing you reach for?
Your earbuds, naturally.
Another delay in health law’s employer requirement
Trying to limit election-year damage on health care, the Obama administration Monday granted business groups another delay in a much-criticized requirement that larger firms cover their workers or face fines.
Muppets’ mini-makeover aims to boost kids’ health
Bert and Ernie jump rope and munch apples and carrots, and Cookie Monster has his namesake treat once a week, not every day. Can a Muppets mini-makeover improve kids’ health, too?
Gordon Hospital Foundation announces 4th Annual Run For Your Life
Registration is now open for the 4th Annual Run For Your Life Road Race.
- More Health Headlines
- Doctor on call