The rise in caffeinated snack products has the FDA looking into the effects of these products on children out of safety concerns related to the excessive caffeine content.
Wrigley recently launched its caffeinated Alert Energy Gum, which caused the agency to decide to investigate the category. The gum, which contains roughly half-a-cup of coffee's worth of caffeine in every stick, is Wrigley's attempt to restore the foundering "gum category health," the company said in a statement, "and that means creating functional and ‘occasion-based’ reasons to chew, bringing relevance back to gum.”
Caffeinated energy drinks have been linked to serious illnesses and deaths as a result of too much caffeine. FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, Michael Taylor, says the last time caffeine's use was approved for food was in the 1950s when it was added to colas. Taylor said the current uses of caffeine are "beyond anything FDA envisioned."
The agency plans to look at what impact these new mediums for synthetic caffeine will have on children. Cracker Jack's recently debuted a caffeinated caramel corn snack and Jelly Belly has launched an Extreme Sport jellybean, which contains 50 milligrams of caffeine in a 100-calorie serving pack.
The companies, including Wrigley, say they're marketing exclusively to adults with their products, which are not intended for children. But like energy drinks, the youth market is particularly drawn to the caffeinated products, and are the likely targets for caffeinated snacks, regardless of the marketing angles taken by the companies.
New York Daily News reported that Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, asks whether or not caffeinated macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal could be the next categories to tempt children. "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."
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Image: Limarie C