After analyzing nearly 30 widely available caffeinated drinks, a new U.S. study said the caffeine content of all carbonated and energy drinks should be clearly labeled on packaging to avoid unnecessary risk for vulnerable consumers.
The study, published in this month's Journal of Analytical Toxicology, looked at 10 energy drinks and 19 fizzy sodas. It found all the fizzy drinks had caffeine levels well inside the 65 mg per 12-ounce serving recommended limit for cola drinks in the United States, but most energy drinks had levels in the high 60s and 70s for an 8-ounce serving.
Bruce Goldberger, one of the researchers, said he was surprised by the high caffeine content of some of the energy drinks. He pointed out that only four of the 10 were labeled with some sort of warning to consumers. He added that all drinks containing caffeine should display the caffeine content on their labels to prevent those at risk from consuming more caffeine than they should.
Both the American Dietetic Association and the U.K. Food Standards Agency advise people not to consume more than 300 mg of caffeine per day, or about two to three cups of coffee. In certain people, consumption of caffeine causes serious health effects, such as anxiety, palpitations, irritability, difficulty sleeping and stomach complaints. Also, women who are pregnant have greater risk of miscarriage or babies with low birth weight if they exceed the 300 mg barrier, studies have shown.
Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at John Hopkins University, said people could become addicted to caffeine on just 100 mg per day. "People should make informed decisions about their caffeine use. Obviously, knowing how much caffeine a given product contains is critical to making an informed decision about use."
The caffeine labeling debate has been bandied about for years. Red Bull, the forerunner of today's "energy drinks," is still banned in France on the advice of the country's health and food safety authorities, partly because of concerns about the drink's high caffeine levels. A 2002 European Union directive states that all drinks containing caffeine, except tea and coffee, above 150 mg per liter must state "high caffeine content" on their labels. Accordingly, Red Bull cans in the United Kingdom now carry this label, although it and other energy drinks' makers have repeatedly stated that their products are safe.
To read more on caffeine, see our story in the Winter Outdoor GearTrends magazine in January 2006, "Hidden Buzz." Click here to go to the Table of Contents and download an article PDF.