Monday, October 20, 2008

Caffeine overload in our children?

Here is a reprint of a story I saw on Yahoo today. It gives me the chills on so many levels, the highest of which is why the FDA is again NOT doing its job of protecting the citizens by making companies label products containing caffeine given that there has been a petition requesting this that has been open since 1997.

Yep, you read that right: 1997. It can't possibly take eleven years for an agency to determine that a particular substance which is present in a product should be on the label unless the producers of that product want that information hidden from the consumer!


Anyway, if you drink a lot of coffee or tea or other caffeinated products, you will want to avoid certain soap and jelly beans!....... and certainly protect your children from them.

For more information, see below.

And send a note to the FDA when you're done demanding that caffein-containing products be labeled!!


Hey! Who Put the Caffeine in My Soap?

By JOHN CLOUD John Cloud – Mon Oct 20, 11:10 am ET October 20, 2008

Most adults know how many cups of coffee we can have before we get twitchy. We're a race of well-practiced, high-functioning junkies. After all, regular human consumption of caffeine began at least 2,000 years ago, and until recently there was no reason to think our little global addiction posed any threat.

But recently companies began unleashing a barrage of unfamiliar products packed with extreme amounts of caffeine. The trend started with super-caffeinated energy drinks in the '90s, but more recently scientists and marketers have created caffeinated foods and even personal-hygiene products. In the past five years, according to the market research giant Mintel, firms have launched at least 126 caffeinated food products for sale in the U.S. Twenty-nine such products have been introduced this year alone. The offerings include things like Morning Spark oatmeal, NRG potato chips, and - my favorite, if only for the brazen attempt to draw kids into caffeine culture - Jelly Belly's Extreme Sport Beans, which call themselves "Energizing Jelly Beans." You can also now buy caffeinated toiletries like Bath Buzz Caffeinated Lotion.

Public-health officials are worried about the new products for two reasons: first, people might simply add the new products to their typical ration of coffee or tea. That could increase their risk for caffeine intoxication, a condition that causes symptoms like nervousness, insomnia, tachycardia and psychomotor agitation. Caffeine intoxication is not uncommon: according to a 1998 study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 7% of caffeine users have experienced it. The symptoms usually abate quickly when people quit caffeine, but in rare cases the symptoms can lead to death.

The larger problem with the new caffeinated inventions is that their labels don't typically disclose how much caffeine they contain. And yet some of them are crammed with the drug: Sumseeds, a brand of caffeinated sunflower seeds, contain 120 mg of caffeine per packet, 16% more than in a typical 6-oz serving of coffee. Shower Shock soap is designed to deliver a crackling 200 mg of caffeine when lathered into the skin, twice the amount in that same cup of coffee.

Earlier this month, a Johns Hopkins neuroscience professor named Roland Griffiths, one of the world's leading caffeine experts, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging it to require specific caffeine labeling in light of all the strange new caffeinated products. Nearly 100 fellow scientists and public-health advocates signed the letter. Griffiths reminded the FDA that it has yet to decide on a 1997 petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) requesting caffeine labeling.

The FDA has not yet responded to Griffiths. FDA spokesman Michael Herndon told me in an e-mail that the CSPI petition is still "active and pending." When I asked why it has taken 11 years - so far - to review it, he replied, "Some petitions may take longer depending on agency workload and complexity of the issue."

But caffeine labeling is not a complex issue. Consumers should be able to make informed choices; people should know that a Starbucks venti drip coffee can have as much as 400 mg of caffeine.

Griffiths says there's no good epidemiological data yet to show whether the new caffeinated food and hygiene products are affecting public health. But he does worry about one group that can readily access these products: kids.

Doctors recommend that pre-pubescent kids not have any caffeine, and yet caffeinated candies and gums and chips have strong appeal for kids. Earlier this year, four middle-school boys in Broward County, Fla., had to go to the hospital after drinking energy drinks. The boys were sweating so much that school officials thought they might be having heart attacks.

That's an extreme but not isolated case. Those boys probably wouldn't have paid much attention even if labels did include caffeine content, but the rest of us should be able to calibrate our addictions with more information.

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Geraldine said...

I must admit, I do like my coffee fix and also earl grey tea but too much of anything is never a good idea. Some of these examples are out of this world!!! Thanks for keeping us informed M on so many important health issues. I often refer people to your blogs; you do a great job!

Michelle Wood said...

Hi G,

I love my coffee, too, but hiding caffine in unexpected (and unrevealed) places can lead to serious health problems.

The shocker to me was the lotions and soaps. The amount of chemicals we absorb through our skin is enormous, sometimes intentional like medicated patches, but also from the environment. To add unnecessary stimulants to products that children may be exposed to is irresponsible.

Thanks for the compliment, G. I love your poetry blog as well. :-)

Geraldine said...

An interesting point to bring up M and so important. So much more than what people believe, is absorbed through the skin. A frightening thought considering the ingredient list on so many skin care products. I am glad that that ingredient list IS there though. I hope to be 'part of the solution' in the very near future, with the launch of our natural soap business. I can't wait!

Michelle Wood said...

I wish you great success and prosperity with your natural soap business.

There are so many stories these days about things like parabens that are in our personal-care products that have turned out to be very unhealthy.

Let me know how it goes!