The FDA is warning consumers about severe health risks, including rapid or irregular heartbeat, seizures and death, associated with consuming pure caffeine. These products are in powdered form and are marketed directly to consumers. The FDA is particularly concerned about products in bulk bags, which appear to be sold primarily by Internet retailers.
The FDA is aware of a teenager who died as a result of acute caffeine toxicity after consuming powdered pure caffeine. The agency is working to collect additional information about powdered pure caffeine products and will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers. In the interim, the FDA recommends that consumers avoid these products. Parents should be aware that powdered caffeine products may be attractive to young people.
One teaspoon of powdered pure caffeine is equivalent to the amount of caffeine in about 25 cups of regular coffee. These products may carry minimal or insufficient labeling, and consumers may not be aware that small amounts can cause an overdose.
While consumers of caffeinated products such as coffee, tea and soda may be aware of caffeine’s less-serious effects--such as nervousness and tremors--they may not be aware that powdered caffeine products contain a pure form of the chemical.
The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small. Furthermore, safe quantities of these products can be nearly impossible to measure with common kitchen measuring tools. Volume measures, such as teaspoons, are not precise enough to calculate how many milligrams of caffeine are in the dose. Pre-existing heart conditions can intensify the effects of caffeine and make the product more dangerous for individuals with these conditions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants by children and adolescents. The FDA has cited 400 milligrams a day–that's about 20 to 28 ounces of coffee–as an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects in healthy adults.
Consumers can report negative side effects associated with these products in the following ways:
- Phone at 240-402-2405
- E-mail at CAERS@sfsan.fda.gov