Coca-Cola joins industry move to label caffeine

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Coca-Cola has announced that it plans to disclose the caffeine
content on all of its beverages, as part of the company's rollout
of expanded nutrition labeling in the US.

The move, which the firm said is part of an industry initiative, comes just days after competitor PepsiCo announced it would label caffeine on its Pepsi drinks. Coca-Cola said the new packaging labels will provide the exact amount of caffeine in each serving. "The inclusion of caffeine content information is an additional voluntary step taken by The Coca-Cola System. In 2005, Coca-Cola North America introduced labeling that provides consumers with nutrition information for a standard eight-ounce serving as well as for the total of a single-serve package,"​ said the company in a statement. The global drinks giant has already included caffeine labeling on its Full Throttle and Enviga packaging. It will roll out the new labels on its other brands, starting with cans of Coca-Cola Classic in May, said the firm. It will then expand to other brands and packages during the remainder of the year. The time at which the revised labels reach store shelves will vary by brand and by region as US bottlers use up existing inventories of packaging. Earlier this week, competing firm PepsiCo also said it also plans to clearly label the caffeine content of its flagship soda. "We're simply giving consumers more information,"said PepsiCo. ​Under current regulations, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted caffeine generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status in cola-type beverages, to a limit of 0.02 percent. But the American Dietetic Association – as well as the Food Standards Agency in the UK – advises people not to consume more than 300mg of caffeine per day. Health Canada advises consumers to limit their caffeine intake to 400 to 450 mg per day. This advice is particularly aimed at pregnant women, who, studies indicate, have greater risk of miscarriage or babies with low birth weight if they exceed the 300mg barrier. A study published last year in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology​ stated that all drinks containing caffeine should display the caffeine content on their labels, to prevent those at risk from consuming too much of the substance. The research team analyzed the caffeine content of 10 energy drinks and 19 fizzy sodas, all widely available. They found all the fizzy drinks had caffeine levels well inside the 65mg per 12oz serving recommended limit for cola drinks in the US. Most energy drinks had levels in the high 60s and 70s for an 8oz serving. Dr Bruce Goldberger, one of the researchers, said he was surprised by the high caffeine content of some of the energy drinks. He pointed out that only four of the 10 were labeled with some sort of warning to consumers. "In certain people, consumption of caffeine causes serious health effects, such as anxiety, palpitations, irritability, difficulty sleeping and stomach complaints,"​ he said, urging for the clear labeling of the substance on all products. For the past decade, the US consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been calling on FDA to require the disclosure on food labels of caffeine content. Other food and beverage manufacturers could be prudent in following Coca-Cola's and PepsiCo's lead as a way to prevent future regulatory concerns. FoodNavigator-USA.com will next week hear from lawyers specializing in the food industry why caffeine is an issue of rising importance, and what manufacturers can do to protect themselves from imminent regulatory action.

Related topics: Suppliers, Food safety and labeling

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