Whether it’s lack of sleep, an overabundance of work, or simply an addiction, Americans love their caffeine. In fact, they love it so much that getting it from their morning java just isn't enough. That’s why much to the FDA’s dismay, a growing number of manufacturers are adding caffeine to food. The latest addition to the pick me up market: Caffeinated peanut butter.
Steem's caffeinated peanut butter contains 170 mg of caffeine in two tablespoons, equivalent to about two cups of coffee. The recipe is simple and rather healthful, containing peanut butter, peanut oil, agave nectar, and caffeine extracted from green coffee pods.
Steem inventor Chris Pettazzoni thinks this is a healthy avenue for getting your morning boost, in his case, replacing coffee entirely.
"We are big proponents for taking it easy on caffeine," Pettazzoni said to The Washington Post, noting that he has completely given up coffee for caffeinated peanut butter since the launch of the Massachusetts-based business last year. "Fundamentally, we're one of the safer methods [of caffeine intake]."
A slew of foods including cookies, beef jerky, and sunflower seeds are now made with added caffeine and it's making the FDA nervous. The agency has told food manufacturers to stop adding it in and warned that they make look toward new regulations in the future.
“It’s a trend that raises real concerns,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s top food safety official, told the Post. “We’re not here to say that these products are inherently unsafe. We’re trying to understand, what are the right questions to be asking? ... When you start putting [caffeine] in these different products and forms, do we really understand the effects?”
While Pettazzoni gets his morning jolt from a singular item, others may combine it with a host of caffeinated products like coffee, energy drinks, soda, and other caffeinated foods like Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans for example, which contain as much caffeine as a grande Caffè Mocha at Starbucks. It all adds up to far too much caffeine.
Caffeinated powders are also increasingly worrisome to the FDA, which after two known deaths thus far, put out a guidance advising consumers to avoid it. Kids and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to overdose.
"These products are essentially 100 percent caffeine. A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee," according to the agency. "Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should be aware that these products may be attractive to young people."
For now, FDA hasn’t taken steps to regulate caffeinated foods and, according to Steem, the new product is selling like hotcakes. The tiny company is putting out more than 450 orders per week.
"We're trying to go about this through the proper channels and are certainly not hiding anything we are doing," Pettazzoni said.
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Image of peanut butter from Shuttershock