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Caffeine in foods a risk to children?

AP
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“Could caffeinated macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal be next?”

Wrigley's Alert Energy Caffeine Gum.photo: AP
Wrigley's Alert Energy Caffeine Gum.photo: AP

Looking for a new way to get that jolt of caffeine energy? Food companies are betting snacks like potato chips, jelly beans and gum with a caffeinated kick could be just the answer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is closely watching the marketing of these foods and wants to know more about their safety.

The FDA said Monday it will look at the foods’ effects on children in response to a caffeinated gum introduced this week by Wrigley. Alert Energy Gum 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 the current proliferation of caffeine added to foods is “beyond anything FDA envisioned,” Taylor said.

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.

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 milligrams, or the equivalent amount found in half a cup of coffee.

Food manufacturers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods in recent years. Critics say it is 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.

Taylor said the agency would look at the added caffeine in its totality while one product might not cause adverse effects, the increasing number of caffeinated products on the market, including drinks, could mean more adverse health effects for children.AP

Why is caffeine dangerous to kids?

Children have less ability to process caffeine than adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics says caffeine has been linked to harmful effects on young people’s developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.


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