Caffeinated snack foods (gum included!) under FDA investigation

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The recent rise in caffeinated snack products has prompted the FDA’s investigation to look into the effects of these products on children, due to health safety concerns related to the excessive caffeine content and possible repeated consumption leading to caffeine over-consumption. 

It is Wrigley’s last month launch of its caffeinated Alert Energy Gum (40mg of caffeine or half-a-cup of coffee) that caused the agency to decide on an investigation of the caffeinated snack category. But first of all, WHY caffeine in a stick of gum? You guessed it, it is all about extending the gum consumption (more sales, more revenues) and illustrates Wrigley’s attempt to create new occasion-based reasons to chew gum, i.e. when you need a boost, to focus on a task, or to stay alert. Other snack/food categories are leveraging the same opportunity: Cracker Jack’s recently debuted a caffeinated  caramel corn snack and Jelly Belly has launched an Extreme Sport jellybean (50 mg of caffeine in a 100-calorie serving pack). Wrigley’s marketing campaign is said to be targeting adults 25 and older, but there are major concerns that children may get their hands on it. One serving of any of these foods isn’t likely to harm anyone. The concern is that it will be increasingly easy to consume caffeine throughout the day, sometimes unwittingly, as companies add caffeine to candies, nuts, snacks and other foods.

But gum is just the newest category on record to include caffeine. The US market for energy drinks is estimated at over $6 billion, with Redbull, #1 selling energy drink brand claiming to sell over 4 billion servings of their product each year worldwide. While typical sodas/soft drinks are limited by the FDA to no more than 71 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per serving, the “herbal enhancement” designation of energy drinks allows them to add significant amounts of caffeine via exotic and natural herbal extracts such as ginseng, ginko biloba and fat-burning amino acids like L-carnitine. That explains the upwards of 500 mg content of caffeine per serving.

There is also the energy alcohol drink category. Four Loko were recently banned due to their dangerous mix of caffeine and alcohol… But aren’t non-alcoholic products just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety as the ‘premixed’ alcoholic energy drinks? Consumers could just as well separately drink alcohol and consume these caffeinated snacks… What about adolescents’s consumption? Pregnant women’s?

The last time FDA approved caffeine in a food product was in the 1950s when it was added to… colas. So today’s widespread and across-categories’ addition of caffeine is clearly beyond what was ever envisioned at the time of that approval. The concern over the impact of these new mediums for synthetic caffeine  on children is even bigger…

Wrigley just announced a pause in their newly launched caffeinated Alert Energy Gum, while the FDA’s investigation is in progress for now…

Check out the full article at:

Credit photo:  Limarie C

* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

– This is yet another great example of “creative” marketing ways to extend a market size for a product or a category, or categories of products, with little to no regards to health impact or possible mis-targeting.

. Do you knowingly consume these types of caffeinated snacks ?

. Do you/would let your and others’ kids consume these if you were aware of the caffeine content?

– Part of the problem is that labels are not crystal clear. First this is the types of writing that’ll be a in tiny prints, and second, the average consumer has no idea what xx mg of caffeine per serving represents, let alone keeps tracks of the possible effects of the combination of products consumed. The question about whose responsibility (unique? shared?) is clearly open on this topic.

. Do you read snacks’ labels in detail?

. Would products’ labels clearly alerting about risks associated with cross (with alcohol) or over consumption a useful addition to the packaging of these snacks?

Let us know… 

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