Caffeine is being added to a growing number of food and drink products, including energy drinks, snack foods, and even gum, that are often marketed to adolescents and children. The health risks of consuming too much caffeine, especially for vulnerable populations, and the easy availability of these products should cause the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be especially vigilant and proactive in regulating caffeine. However, the FDA's overall response until recently has been one of inaction, according to a cautionary Editorial in Journal of Caffeine Research, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The Editorial is available free on the Journal of Caffeine Research website at http://www.liebertpub.com/jcr.
According to the precautionary principle, in the absence of a medical or scientific consensus that caffeine is harmful, the burden of proof that caffeine does not cause harm lies with the producers under the watchful oversight of the FDA.
"The potential for caffeine-related harm is known to be persistent and widespread," says Jack E. James, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Caffeine Research, citing studies from the medical literature in which caffeine use has been linked to elevated blood pressure, physical dependence, and low birth weight.
"Therefore, absence of harm obviously cannot be demonstrated," states Dr. James in his Editorial entitled "Caffeine: Public Concern and the Precautionary Principle." He adds, "FDA regulatory inaction not only breaches the precautionary principle, it is entirely unfounded in fact."
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers