On Friday, the FDA announced that it will investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, and in particular its effects on children and adolescents. The announcement comes a few days after Wrigley introduced its new caffeinated chewing gum “Alert Energy” and after a group of 19 health professionals asked the FDA to take action to protect children from the effects of energy drinks.
Dr. John Higgins of the University of Health Science Center at Houston, is one of the letter’s co-authors. He says products like gum and energy drinks are particularly attractive to young people.
“They tend to be very sweet and they are very easy to drink cold, and they give you a lot of sugar, they give you the caffeine and they give you the herbal ingredients, which can give you a bit of a rush.”
Kids are not used to high amounts of caffeine like most coffee-drinking adults are, he says, and unlike coffee, these kinds of drinks are designed to be drunk fast.
Higgins says some medical problems that kids have suffered from consuming just one can of an energy drink include rapid heartbeats, chest pains, seizures, and even death.
“We want the FDA to regulate these products and say, OK, you have to be 18 or over to go in and buy one of these and drink them, that’s number one.”
The group also wants to require energy drink companies to disclose how much caffeine their products contain and include a warning for those with caffeine-sensitivity or other problems to avoid the product. And, they want the companies to back up claims about their products — for example that they’ll make you perform better — with scientific data.