CHICAGO – The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., a business unit of Mars Inc., has suspended the production, marketing and distribution of its Alert Energy caffeinated gum. The announcement comes after the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, particularly its effects on children and adolescents.
“When Wrigley launched Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, we took great strides to ensure that the product was formulated, distributed and marketed in a safe and responsible way to consumers 25 years old and over,” said Casey Keller, president of Wrigley North America. “We exceeded all regulatory requirements on labeling and disclosure because we believe consumers should be informed about the amount of caffeine they are consuming in their food and beverage products so they can make smart choices.
“After discussions with the F.D.A., we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation’s food supply. There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products. In an effort to support this process, and out of respect for the F.D.A., we have paused the production, sales and marketing of Alert. This will give the F.D.A. time to develop a new regulatory framework for the addition of caffeine to food and drinks.”
In an interview published May 3 by the F.D.A., Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, called the proliferation of products featuring added caffeine “disturbing.”
“The gum is just one more unfortunate example of the trend to add caffeine to food,” he said. “Our concern is about caffeine appearing in a range of new products, including ones that may be attractive and readily available to children and adolescents, without careful consideration of their cumulative impact.
“One pack of this gum is like having four cups of coffee in your pocket. Caffeine is even being added to jelly beans, marshmallows, sunflower seeds and other snacks for its stimulant effect.
“Meanwhile, ‘energy drinks’ with caffeine are being aggressively marketed, including to young people. An instant oatmeal on the market boasts that one serving has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, and then there are similar products, such as a so-called ‘wired’ waffle and ‘wired’ syrup with added caffeine. The proliferation of these products in the marketplace is very disturbing to us.”
Mr. Taylor said in the interview the F.D.A. would consider a range of options addressing the proliferation of products featuring added caffeine, but asked food and beverage makers to exercise voluntary restraint.
“Together, we should be immediately looking at what voluntary restraint can be used by industry as F.D.A. gets the right regulatory boundaries and conditions in place,” he said. “I’m hopeful that industry will step up.”