American Beverage Association Launches Offensive on Caffeine
Ray Latif, February 11, 2014
Hounded by consumer safety groups and lawmakers, energy drink companies have faced a firestorm of criticism and negative press over the last two years, with much of the vitriol incited by claims that product marketing is inappropriately targeted to reach children and adolescents. Yet while public wrath appears to have had little effect on sales of the leading energy drink brands, the prospect of class action lawsuits and increased regulation of highly-caffeinated beverages has certainly caused some unease among the top brands, including Monster, Rockstar and 5-hour Energy.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would begin to investigate the the safety of added caffeine in food and beverages as well as the effect of the ingredient on children. Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA noted that the agency is “particularly concerned about children and adolescents, and the responsibility FDA and the food industry have to protect public health and respect social norms that suggest we shouldn’t be marketing stimulants, such as caffeine, to our children.”
Concerned that public perception has been unfairly skewed against energy drink companies, the American Beverage Association (ABA), an industry trade group, has frequently rebuffed claims that energy drink companies intentionally market their products to minors and often compared the amount of caffeine in a typical energy drink to that of a cup of coffee. Recently, the organization published two statements intended to reinforce the view that energy drinks are safe and not marketed to children.
In a release published yesterday, the ABA pointed to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study titled “Trends in Caffeine Intake Among US Children and Adolescents” and published by The American Academy of Pediatrics, which found that “caffeine intake in the United States has remained stable throughout the last decade.” Additionally, “children and adolescents consume less caffeine than they have in previous years,” the ABA wrote.
The ABA stated that, “while energy drink consumption by children and adolescents continues to be a prevalent topic in mainstream media, it is important to note that this study’s data shows virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks among children under 12 and extremely low consumption for adolescents aged 12 to 18.”
Moreover, the CDC study found that from 2009-2010, soda accounted for 38 percent of total caffeine intake among children, while energy drinks account for only 6 percent of caffeine intake. (The ABA noted that caffeine intake from energy drinks were not measured in 1999-2000.) The study indicated that caffeine intake is growing among coffee drinkers; the beverage is responsible for 24 percent of total caffeine intake.
The ABA followed up with a statement titled, “FACT: Energy Drinks Contain About Half The Caffeine Of Similarly-Sized Coffeehouse Coffee.” The industry group wrote that “Contrary to what you might have heard, the vast majority of energy drinks consumed in the United States – including Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, AMP, Full Throttle and NOS – have similar or lower levels of caffeine than home-brewed coffee… and many contain about half the caffeine of a similarly-sized coffeehouse coffee.”
The statement included a link to an ABA website called EnergyDrinkInformation.com, and a chart compares the caffeine in typical 16 oz. energy drink to that in similarly-sized cups of soda (with caffeine) and “coffeehouse coffee,” the image of which bares several similarities to the iconic Starbucks’ cup. The chart points out that the soda contains on average 40-70 mg of caffeine, while the energy drink has 160-240 mg and the coffee 300-330 mg of caffeine.
Energy Drink Science and Safety Resources :
The following are materials that support our positions on the science and safety of energy drinks and their ingredients, and also counter some of the common myths.
- Letter sent by Dr. Richard Adamson on behalf of the American Beverage Association to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, July 2013. This letteraddresses misinformation included in the Arria et al letter sent to FDA earlier this year.
- Independent analysis noting the limitations of the DAWN report on alleged energy drink-related emergency room visits.
- International Food Information Council Foundation Review, Caffeine & Health: Clarifying the Conversations, March 2008.
- Food and Drug Administration, Caffeine Intake by the U.S. Population, August 2010.
- Archives of Internal Medicine, Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among American Women, September 2011.
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Food Sources and Intakes of Caffeine in the Diets of Persons in the United States, April 2008.
- Mayo Clinic, Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More.
- To find out how much caffeine is in some of the foods that you may enjoy, visit USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.