WASHINGTON — For people seeking an energy boost, companies are increasing their offerings of foods with added caffeine. A new caffeinated gum may have gone too far.
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it will investigate the safety of added caffeine and its effects on children and adolescents. The agency made the announcement just as Wrigley was rolling out Alert Energy Gum, a new product that includes as much caffeine as a half a cup of coffee in one piece and promises “the right energy, right now.”
Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, indicated that the proliferation of new foods with caffeine added – especially the 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.
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.
“This raises questions about how the GRAS concept is working and is it working adequately,” Taylor said.
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 of half a cup of coffee. She said the company will work with FDA.
Food manufacturers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods in recent years. Jelly Belly “Extreme Sport Beans,” for example, have 50 mg of caffeine in each 100-calorie pack, while Arma Energy Snx markets trail mix, chips and other products that have caffeine.