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FDA examines use of caffeine as a food additive

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Updated: 4/30/2013 3:52 pm
The growing number of foods infused with caffeine is getting the Food and Drug Administration's attention.

In an already caffeinated culture of coffee shops and energy drinks, the FDA is concerned that more and more foods are offering similar caffeine jolts.

Some medical experts are concerned as well.

"We tend to see them in some of these things that are quick and convenient that we pop in our mouth without thinking twice about what's in them," notes Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of Wellness Services at the Cleveland Clinic.

One of the newest entries is "Alert Energy Gum" which arrives in stores this week heralded by a full page national newspaper ad.

The gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine per piece, the equivalent of half a cup of coffee.

The availability of what the FDA calls "such new and easy sources' of caffeine" is prompting the agency to investigate their potential impact on children's health.

One possible harmful side effect is appetite suppression.

"Substituting those nutrients for caffeine and then not having the appetite to actually have regular meals is a real concern for our children," Kirkpatrick explains.

A Wrigley spokesperson says its marketing alert energy gum to adults over 25 and has added labeling and a higher price point to distinguish it from other gums.

With the FDA already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, the agency says it will look at the totality of caffeine's impact and if necessary, take appropriate action.

Health advocates recommend consumers do the same.

"Instead of waiting for other agencies and health organizations to make decisions for us, we need to make decisions ourselves about what we're going to put into our body," Kirkpatrick says.

Especially when that body is still growing.

Among the concerns raised by the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to kids and caffeine are potentially harmful effects on their developing neurologic and cardiovascular system.

-- Mark Barger, NBC News, reports
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