The Canadian regulator ruled that adding synthetic caffeine to non-cola soft drinks in concentrations no higher than 150 parts per million (ppm) poses no health risk to consumers provided they follow Health Canada’s daily intake recommendations.
This recommended figure is lower than the maximum of 200 ppm allowed in cola beverages under the Food and Drug Regulations.
A spokesperson for Health Canada said the 150 ppm limit is lower for non-cola soft drinks because it was the level requested by the petitioner.
Under food additive regulations in Canada, companies must make a submission to regulators to allow the expanded use of an additive. Health Canada then completes a safety review before deciding whether to make an approval.
As things now stand, synthetic caffeine can be added to cola and non-cola soft drinks but remains on the prohibited list for other food and drink products.
The expanded use of caffeine in soft drinks will be authorised in the short-term through an Interim Marketing Authorization (IMA), which will allow manufacturers to begin selling products while the regulatory changes are being drafted.
Similar levels of caffeine are currently allowed in non-cola soft drinks in many other jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe.
In Canada, to encourage consumers to respect daily intake recommendations under the looser caffeine regulations, Health Canada is asking manufacturers to go beyond their legal requirements.
It is urging manufacturers to voluntarily identify on product labels the total caffeine contained in a product from both natural ingredients such as guarana and from direct addition as a food additive.
The government agency is also asking industry to go beyond food additive labelling requirements and identify the presence of caffeine on the front of package labelling of newly caffeinated beverage formulations. The idea is that such labelling will help consumers to clearly identify those products whose formulations now contain caffeine.
In other related news, Health Canada is currently developing a new labelling standard for all energy drinks sold in Canada. Energy drinks, due to their ingredients and intended uses, are currently classified and regulated as natural health products (NHPs) in Canada.
This means they are subject to the requirements of natural health product regulations and not food additive regulations. This explains why energy drinks with caffeine were on sale before the widening of the authorised use of synthetic caffeine beyond cola drinks.