FDA to investigate caffeine in children food
Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, indicated that the proliferation of new foods with caffeine added, such as Wrigley's Alert Energy 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 is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.
Mr. Taylor 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," Taylor told The Associated Press.
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.
As food companies have created more new ingredients to add health benefits, improve taste or help food stay fresh, there are at least 4,650 of these "generally recognized as safe" ingredients, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. The bulk of them, at least 3,000, were determined GRAS by companies and trade associations.
Caffeine is not a new ingredient, but the FDA is concerned about all of the new ways it is being delivered to consumers. The agency will look at the potential impact these new sources of caffeine will have on children's health. ■