The FDA recently met with Wrigley to express its concerns over the new gum’s safety for children. Although there are other types of caffeinated gum on the market, they’re all sold by companies that solely specialize in energy products — so, even though Wrigley promised it wouldn’t be targeting its new gum toward kids, the FDA worried it might not be as clear to parents and children that Alert Energy does contain an additive. The federal agency, concerned about the growing trend of marketing caffeinated products to children, announced that it will launch an investigation into the effects that added caffeine has on children.
While FDA officials have acknowledged that enforcing an age restriction for caffeine is unlikely, they point out that carding Americans for coffee is an entirely different issue than regulating the amount of caffeine that may be added to products that kids typically enjoy. “For me, the more fundamental questions are whether it is appropriate to use foods that may be inherently attractive and accessible to children as the vehicles to deliver the stimulant caffeine,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, explained.
Talyor applauded Wrigley’s decision to stop producing and marketing its Alert Energy gum. “The company’s action demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health,” he said, noting that the FDA’s role in regulating caffeinated products remains unresolved while the agency pursues its current investigation. “We hope others in the food industry will exercise similar restraint.”
Energy drinks are another highly-caffeinated product receiving increased scrutiny in recent months. After emergency room visits related to energy drinks more than doubled over the past five years, health advocates started calling on the FDA to strengthen its regulatory oversight over this sector of the beverage industry — which often gets around FDA guidelines by classifying energy drinks as “dietary supplements” rather than “drinks.”