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FDA warns consumers to avoid powdered caffeine

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After the death of an 18-year-old teenager in Ohio, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about the dangers of pure powdered caffeine. The FDA is especially concerned about powdered caffeine sold in bulk bags over the Internet.

A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee.

Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should be aware that teens and young adults may be interested in pure caffeine due to its stimulant effects, the FDA said.

Symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures, and death, the FDA said. Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor, and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity. These symptoms are likely to be much more severe than those from drinking too much coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.

People with pre-existing heart conditions shouldn’t use pure caffeine products.

The FDA said it’s nearly impossible to accurately measure pure powdered caffeine with kitchen measuring tools, and you can easily consume a lethal amount.

Although the FDA has warned consumers not to consume pure powdered caffeine following the teenager’s death, more needs to be done, said Jim O’Hara, health promotion policy director, Center for science in the Public Interest.

While applauding the FDA’s “step forward” in warning the public about powdered caffeine, it has much more to do if it really wants to protect the public, O’Hara said.

The center wrote the FDA in June on the need for the agency to prevent harms from caffeine-laced energy drinks by issuing a public health warning against their consumption, especially by youths, limiting the amount of caffeine in those products, and putting a warning label on them.

“The overuse and misuse of caffeine in the food supply is creating a wild-west marketplace, and it’s about time the sheriff noticed and did something,” he said.

The FDA wants to know more about adverse events associated with pure powdered caffeine and other highly caffeinated products. You or your health care provider can report to the FDA by calling 240-402-2405 or emailing CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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