The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into building a case against people who sell pure powdered caffeine to stop online sales of the potent substance that has been blamed for several illnesses and at least two deaths.
The news comes just months after the FDA issued a safety alert to consumers about pure caffeine powder after the agency learned of the death of Logan James Stiner, a high school athlete who died after consuming a lethal dose of the substance last July.
Pure powdered caffeine, which is sold in bulk as a dietary supplement, is essentially 100 percent caffeine. One teaspoon is the equivalent to about 25 cups of coffee. The FDA warned that the substance is powerful and just a small amount can cause accidental overdose.
“Parents should be aware that these products may be attractive to young people,” the agency warned. It is often taken by young people seeking to improve test results, athletes to improve performance, and by persons looking to lose weight.
An autopsy of Stiner showed he had more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, or about 23 times the amount found in someone who typically drinks coffee or caffeinated sodas.
In June, James Wade Sweatt, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, went into a coma and died after consuming the powder.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to institute a ban on bulk sales of the product, and has asked the FDA and HHS to ban the retail distribution of the substance.
Caffeine overdose can occur just minutes after consumption and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, stupor, disorientation, rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death.