Study notes increasing questions about children and caffeine

Children are increasingly consuming highly-caffeinated foods and energy drinks, according to a new report commissioned by the Obama administration.

The study prepared by the non-profit Institute of Medicine comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers new restrictions on caffeine. 

The report reached no conclusions on caffeine in food and drinks, but noted that new questions are being raised by the increasing number of foods that include caffeine.

"There are many unanswered questions about actual exposure levels, especially among children and adolescents who have historically not consumed much caffeine but are increasingly consuming it in the form of caffeinated energy drinks and other food products," the report said.

FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine Michael Taylor said the report would be “extremely helpful” as the agency considers new rules.

"In the last ten years, the marketplace has seen an influx of caffeinated energy drinks and a wide range of foods with added caffeine," he said in a statement. "It is apparent that caffeine is now appearing in a range of new foods and beverages. We are especially concerned with products that may be attractive and readily available to children and adolescents, without careful consideration of their cumulative impact."

Caffeine is one of the ingredients included on the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe" list, because regulators say it is safe in small consumption. However, the agency plans to take another look at foods and energy drinks that use caffeine in large consumptions. 

Long recognized as a key ingredient in sodas like Coke-a-Cola and Dr Pepper, companies have more recently been adding caffeine to a wide range of food products, such as some cookies, graham crackers, puddings, pie crusts and even Wrigley's Alert Energy Caffeine Gum.

Caffeine is also added to popular energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy.  

"Although the health effects of caffeine have a long history of scientific study, caffeine is being marketed to consumers in novel products and in new ways, raising new questions about caffeine intake and the health consequences of caffeine exposure," the study found.