FDA Makes Coffee Comparison for Sen. Durbin

The U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has responded to requests for an inquiry into the caffeine content of energy drinks  by telling U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill) to take a look at places like Starbucks.

Sen. Richard Durbin

In those stores, the agency told Sen. Durbin, he would be able to find brewed coffee with 330 milligrams of caffeine in a 16 oz. serving – comparable to the range of caffeine contents found in many energy drinks.

The letter indicated that most studies have not indicated any particularly harmful effects for caffeine consumption of up to 400 mg per day. While the agency said it was in the midst of conducting a review of recent safety studies on caffeine, “the available studies do not indicate any new, previously unknown risks associated with caffeine consumption.”

FDA said it had taken an “updated assessment of the amount of caffeine that people in the United States ingest from all sources,” with the results showing that “even when the consumption of energy drinks is considered, most of the caffeine consumed comes from what is naturally present in coffee and tea.”

Durbin had requested that the agency consider whether it could – or should – regulate what he termed “high levels of caffeine and additives that raise safety concerns” in energy drinks. The letter came in April, following Durbin’s stated concerns about a study that indicated an increased number of emergency room visits due to caffeine toxicity, and, in one case, the death of a 14 year-old girl from Maryland.

The letter to Durbin seemed to indicate that there was not a high level of concern about caffeine in energy drinks even as it continues to analyze and prepare guidance for companies on the distinction between beverages and dietary supplements, noted lawyer Justin Prochnow, who has worked on many cases concerning product claims with the FDA.

“This letter seems to only confirm our discussions that until the FDA is made aware of some evidence that caffeine is unsafe at the common levels found in energy drinks (80 mg for 8 oz.), there is unlikely to be a specific attack on caffeine-containing products,” Prochnow wrote in a note to BevNET. “It is more likely that other ingredients will be the focus of any attack on larger, beverage-looking supplements.”