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Updated: Health Canada ‘reminds’ consumers over managing caffeine intake after safety review

By Stephen DANIELLS , 12-Jun-2013
Last updated the 12-Jun-2013 at 22:37 GMT

Updated: Health Canada ‘reminds’ consumers over managing caffeine intake after safety review

Health Canada has issued a reminder for healthy adults to limit their caffeine intake to no more than 400 mg per day, with lower levels for children and pregnant women.

“While small amounts of caffeine are not a concern for most Canadians, excessive consumption of caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness. For some groups, like pregnant women, health effects can be even more severe and can include lower birth weights,” says the agency in a statement, available here .

Health Canada recommends caffeine intakes intake for pregnant or breastfeeding women and women who are planning to become pregnant of no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day (about two 8 oz (237 ml) cups of coffee), while for children the recommendations drop much lower:

Four to six year olds: Maximum of 45 mg per day (about one 355ml can of regular cola).
Seven to nine year olds: Maximum of 62.5 mg per day
Ten to 12 year olds: Maximum of 85 mg per day
Adolescents 13 and older: No more than 2.5 mg/kg body weight

Safety assessment

The safe consumption recommendations for the Canadian population were based on a recent safety evaluation of caffeine by Health Canada, a spokesperson for the department told us. 

"The department also regularly reviews the latest research and scientific information relevant to caffeine, including research on caffeine consumption," added the spokesperson. 

"Health Canada's Food Directorate recently initiated a review of caffeine in foods available in Canada.  The results of this review will be used to inform any future decisions regarding how caffeine in foods is managed. 
"Health Canada experts have active collaboration and information exchange with their US peers on various files, including on caffeine.  Should the FDA's review reveal any new information that would be relevant to the Canadian context, Health Canada will take that information under consideration and review our recommendations, if necessary," added the spokesperson.  

FDA review

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it would investigate the safety of caffeine in food products amid concerns about the effect on children and adolescents, following the launch of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum - a new caffeinated gum from Wrigley (Mars). Wrigley subsequently halted production “out of respect for the FDA” to give the Agency time to develop a regulatory framework for caffeine in food and drinks.

The suspension of production of the gum was applauded by the FDA. In a May 8, 2013 statement, Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said: “The FDA applauds Wrigley’s decision and its recognition that we need to improve understanding and, as needed, strengthen the regulatory framework governing the appropriate levels and uses of caffeine in foods and beverages. The company’s action demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health.

“We hope others in the food industry will exercise similar restraint. We look forward to working with industry, the scientific and medical community, and all interested parties to address the issues posed by added caffeine in foods and beverages.”

According to Mintel, teens and adults aged 18-24 are the biggest gum users in the US.

FDA has suggested that 400 mg a day - about four or five cups of coffee - is a safe maximum amount, but it is conducting a review.

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