Consumer interest group, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the retail distribution of pure and concentrated caffeine as a dietary supplement claiming the product is lethal even in small doses.
Powdered caffeine is readily available online and retail stores, and some people use the product to get a burst of energy. But the product is misleading. A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly the equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee. Even less than that can lead to caffeine overdose, which can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stupor, disorientation, rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death.
The FDA has previously warned companies pushing powdered caffeine for improperly selling the product, and advised consumers to avoid pure powdered caffeine, warning “It is nearly impossible to accurately measure powdered pure caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools and you can easily consume a lethal amount.” But the so-called dietary supplement remains on the market.
The FDA’s stalled decision has prompted some state legislators to take matters into their own hands. The New York Senate passed a bill in February prohibiting the sale and distribution of powdered pure caffeine. Illinois and Ohio already have measures in place restricting or prohibiting sales. Mississippi, Maryland and Rhode Island have also introduced bills to regulate the sale of concentrated caffeine powder due to the growing number of deaths associated with the dietary supplement.
“There have already been as many as 18 reported deaths, and many more suspected, as a result of pure powder caffeine,” noted a memo on New York State Senate Bill 1641.
“The bills at the state level are a great start and often times, you can build momentum with state action and show that this isn’t going to hurt the regulated industry,” said Laura MacCleery, director of regulatory affairs with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an organization that is also petitioning the FDA to ban the purse and highly concentrated caffeine powder. “The federal ban is critical because it affects everyone in the country without having to go state-by-state. It allows everyone monitoring the mail whether it’s Customs to seize packages that they can identify as coming into the country that contain these products. And it sends a much clearer signal.”