The Edmond Sun

May 9, 2013

The Mankato, Minn., Free Press: Be wary of caffeinated food


CNHI News Service

MANKATO, Minn. — So how gullible are we? Food manufacturers say their caffeine-pumped food is intended for adults. Included in those foods are Jelly Belly “Extreme Sport Beans,” which have 50 mg of caffeine in each 100-calorie pack. A cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine. You probably don’t see many grown-ups putting down their mugs of coffee and tea or even cans of cola in the morning to reach for a package of caffeinated jelly beans.

And now that Wrigley’s has introduced a caffeinated gum, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to look at the issue of caffeine-laden foods more closely and find out specifically how children’s health is affected.

The FDA already is studying the safety of energy drinks and energy shots because of reports of illness and death possibly associated with their consumption. Consumer Reports says some of the drinks contain much more than a cup of coffee. And the safe limit of caffeine for children, depending on their size, is 45-85 grams a day.

Caffeine is a stimulant that needs to be treated as such. The FDA hasn’t tackled the issue much since the 1950s when soda companies were allowed to add caffeine to their products. As caffeine is now being added to a growing list of foods, the sooner the FDA looks at the issue and regulates it more tightly, the better off children will be. If a child drinks caffeinated soda, chews caffeinated gum, snacks on caffeinated candy, it won’t take much for him to go over the recommended limit.

As Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, said: Carrying around a pack of Wrigley’s gum is like having “four cups of coffee in your pocket.”

Kids have easy access to lots of food that’s not good for them, and parents need to help educate them about good choices. But when a drug is added to more everyday foods that the young population has access to, the FDA needs to step up its control.