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Your health: FDA investigating the safety of added caffeine in foods

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A few months ago, our newsroom received cases of potato chips, granola and snack mixes supercharged with caffeine and mega-doses of vitamins and minerals. The consensus was the snacks, courtesy of Arma Energy, were pretty tasty: in particular, “C4,” an energy mix that contained bits of chocolate, chewy caramel and crunchy cookies disappeared a lot quicker than the other products.

But many of us here also are coffee addicts, so we wondered whether we  should scarf down extra caffeine along with the M&Ms and cups of java we already consume. And did we really need caffeinated barbeque potato chips?

Turns out the Food and Drug Administration is asking the same questions. Recently, just as Wrigley’s announced sales of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, the FDA said it is investigating the safety of added caffeine in foodstuffs.

“The gum is just one more unfortunate example of the trend to add caffeine to food. Our concern is about caffeine appearing in a range of new products, including ones that may be attractive and readily available to children and adolescents,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The FDA has had some success banning products containing massive doses of caffeine. Remember Four Loko and the other caffeine-infused alcoholic beverages? States began banning sales in 2010 after emergency room visits related to their use skyrocketed and in November 2010, the FDA wrote four manufacturers saying the caffeine in their products was an unsafe food additive.

Caffeinated waffles, syrup, marshmallows, jelly beans and chips may be next.

“We believe that some in the food industry are on a dubious, potentially dangerous path,” Taylor said.

Patricia Kime is the health reporter for Military Times. She can be reached at pkime@militarytimes.com.

Patricia Kime

Patricia Kime is a health writer for Military Times. Reach her at pkime@militarytimes.com.