Gum launch spurs F.D.A. into action on caffeine

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration will take a closer look at how new sources of caffeine may affect children’s health now that the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. has launched Alert Energy caffeinated gum.
Chicago-based Wrigley, a division of Mars, Inc., said Alert Energy is for adults age 25-49 and is not recommended for children or people sensitive to caffeine. One piece of the gum contains 40 mg of caffeine, or about the same amount of caffeine in a half cup of coffee.

“The only time that F.D.A. explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food was for cola, and that was in the 1950s,” Michael R. Taylor, the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in an April 29 statement. “Today, the environment has changed. Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond these foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything F.D.A. envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola.

“For that reason, F.D.A. is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on the health of children and adolescents, and if necessary, will take appropriate action.”

The F.D.A. also is investigating caffeinated energy drinks such as Monster Energy, 5-hour Energy and Rockstar. According to Las Vegas-based Rockstar, Inc., an 8-oz serving of its products may contain either 80 mg or 120 mg of caffeine, depending on the product. The following statement is found on all Rockstar product labels, “Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those sensitive to caffeine.”

The clinical report “Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate?” appeared earlier this year in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, Ill. The report said stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children or adolescents.

“Caffeine has been shown to enhance physical performance in adults by increasing aerobic endurance and strength, improving reaction time, and delaying fatigue,” the report said. “However, these effects are extremely variable, dose dependent, and, most importantly, have not been studied in children and adolescents.”

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