Powdered Caffeine Ban Sought By U.S. Senator Due to Health Risks

A U.S. senator is calling for a ban on powdered caffeine products, which are frequently sold over the internet with no checks or restrictions on who can buy it. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, held a press conference last week urging the FDA to ban caffeine powder, indicating that it has “no redeeming value” and is a danger to the public.

The statement comes about a month after the FDA issued a safety advisory, warning that even a small amount of pure caffeine powder can result in a fatal overdose.

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One teaspoon of the substance is the equivalent of 25 cups of coffee, and Sen. Blumenthal noted that there was no way to divide that into a safe amount with tools found in most American kitchens.

The product is often sold over the internet or on some store shelves as a dietary supplement, so it is not subject to the same federal regulations as other caffeinated foods. However, it is essentially 100% pure caffeine, and may pose a serious health risk.

The FDA indicated that it is aware of at least one death from powdered caffeine, with an autopsy revealing that the boy had lethal amounts of caffeine in his system after consuming the powder, with more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood.

Senator Blumenthal said overdosing on caffeine powder was virtually unavoidable because of the products’ potency.

Powdered caffeine has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults, as a growing number of “energy” products continue to be marketed aggressively towards children, despite potential health risks.

Hospitalizations from caffeine toxicity have been reported across the country in recent years, often stemming from the use of energy drinks, shots and other products containing high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. The FDA has said it will conduct an investigation and offer regulatory action where necessary.

Last year, there were more than 3,000 calls to poison control centers involving energy drinks. Nearly 2,000 of those calls involved children. Emergency room visits involving energy drinks have also doubled from more than 10,000 visits in 2007, to 20,783 in 2011. Most of the injuries involved teens and young adults.

Last year, Wrigley halted the sale of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum after an FDA investigation was launched concerning the products safety. The product contains 40 mg of caffeine per stick, the equivalent to half a cup of coffee; but in a form which is more readily consumable.

Photo Courtesy of trophygeek via Flickr CC

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