Wrigley has announced that it will be taking a special caffeinated version of its gum off the market while the FDA investigates the safety of the product. The candy company announced earlier last week that it would stop marketing its Alert Energy Caffeine Gum “out of respect” for the regulatory agency which said it would begin investigating the possibly adverse health effects associated with foods containing additional caffeine.
The amount of caffeine contained in the Alert gum is no small matter; the company says that one stick of its gun has an equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Wrigley says that after it was informed of the FDA investigation it decided to stop marketing the product out of deference to concerns about the continued exposure of consumers to high amounts of caffeine. Wrigley said it would halt production to give the FDA time to decide on a regulatory framework for caffeine-added products.
For its part, the FDA says other food companies should follow Wrigley’s lead and halt production of caffeine-added foods until the agency has had a chance to develop industry-wide guidelines. These other companies include jelly beans, trail mix and even chips that have caffeine included.
Critics have said many of the products involve adding caffeine to sweet items like candy, which are attractive to young children. Several major medical associations have warned that exposing children to such high amounts of caffeine can have harmful effects on the development of their cardiovascular and neurologic systems.
The FDA said it was concerned about the development of caffeinated products after worries were raised about the Alert gum. Any child could buy a pack, one of which has as much caffeine as four cups of coffee. The only time the FDA has ever explicitly approved the addition of caffeine to a food product was in the 1950s when the FDA approved caffeinated sodas.
Though caffeine may not be a prescription medication, there’s no doubt that that such high levels can cause serious harm. Seemingly safe ingredients in products we use and consume every day can cause great harm given the right set of circumstances. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said more than 13,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were linked to energy drinks.
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