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NATIONAL REPORT -- On Monday, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. launched its Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, and it didn't take long for federal officials to begin ringing warning bells about the cumulative effects of consuming caffeinated products.
"The only time that the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food was for cola and that was in the 1950s. Today, the environment has changed," stated Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
As CSNews Online previously reported, one pellet of Alert packs 40 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of half a cup of coffee or a whole dark chocolate bar. This may not seem like a lot of caffeine, but experts in the FDA said they are considering the cumulative effects of adding more caffeine to products.
"Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything the FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola," continued Taylor. "For that reason, the FDA is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on health, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and youth, and if necessary, will take appropriate action."
Although Wrigley warns on its website that Alert is directed at adults and is not recommended for children or people sensitive to caffeine, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a watchdog group, argues that its marketing campaign is directed at children and teens.
"Could caffeinated macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal be next?" CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson asked rhetorically in a statement.
Dr. Steven Abrams, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on nutrition, told NBC News that too much caffeine from too many sources can cause restlessness, sleeplessness and anxiety in mild cases, and rapid heartbeat and seizures in severe but rare cases.
Despite these potential side effects, FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said because the gum is not a dietary supplement, Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars Chocolate North America, will not have to submit any reports of adverse events to the FDA.