Coffee and tea to blame for Australian caffeine concerns, says Australian Beverages Council

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th September 2013

Coffee and tea are still the main source of caffeine for Australians, according to a survey undertaken by beverage industry representative body the Australian Beverages Council.

The Galaxy Poll, finalised in late August 2013, asked 1,105 Australians aged between 15 and 49 a range of questions about their weekly and monthly consumption of products that contain caffeine.

“As well as getting some insightful information about where Australians are getting their caffeine from, we also wanted to find out whether or not they are aware of the caffeine content of some commonly consumed products,” said Geoff Parker, the Australian Beverage Council’s Chief Executive Officer.

“As the representative body for 95 per cent of non-alcoholic beverages manufacturers and distributors in the country, we need to know firstly if there is a need to educate consumers about caffeinated products and if there is, then whether that’s in the area of consumption or caffeine content or both,” Mr Parker said.

Where are Australians getting their caffeine?

The Australian Beverages Council said the results of its survey showed that coffee and tea remain the major contributors to caffeine consumption in Australia. Together, coffee and tea represented 70 per cent of the weekly caffeine intake, with coffee (instant, café/coffee shop, green and black) contributing 19 per cent. The remaining contributors were cola drinks at 18 per cent, and chocolate, which was equal with energy drinks at 5 per cent.

The Australian Beverages Council said caffeine tablets and training supplements were outside the scope of the survey.

“In considering caffeine in the diet and any changes to the regulations, the Government must recognise coffee is the obvious place to start,” Mr Parker said.

“On the one hand, coffee is the most highly caffeinated product and is by far the largest contributor to caffeine intake with up to 250mg in a long black,” Mr Parker said. “But then on the other hand, there is absolutely no limit on how much caffeine may be in a cup of coffee, and no labelling requirements. No matter what lens you view it through, the scales just don’t balance,” he said.

“All of the hype is around energy drinks, which are limited to an absolute caffeine content the same as an instant cup of coffee – 80mg for a 250mL can – yet they only contribute 5 per cent to the caffeine intake of Australians,” Mr Parker said. “As far as labelling is concerned, energy drinks in Australia set the highest benchmark – not just here, but anywhere in the world. As well as disclosing the amount of caffeine, they also provide advisory statements on who should avoid consumption, and a daily maximum consumption allowance,” he said.

Coffee has the highest caffeine content

Information from Food Standards Australian New Zealand and the Australian Institute of Sport lists café coffees like a long black, which has approximately 250mg of caffeine, and cappuccinos and lattes, which have a range of 113-282mg for a  250mL cup, as the most highly caffeinated products. A 250mL energy drink has a maximum of 80mg of caffeine, which is similar to the amount in a cup of instant coffee (60-80mg), while cola drinks contain 49mg, which is similar to a cup of black tea (25-110mg).

“Every one of us knows from our own experience that there’s a café on every corner and that specialty coffee is also within arm’s reach at home through popular pod machines,” Mr Parker said. “As a population, we’re all drinking a lot more coffee. We consume 1 billion cups a year outside of the home and 4 billion cups at home. In the 8 year period between 2003-2011, there were nearly 2,000 new cafes established,” he said.

Australian Food News reported in September 2013 that the Government had released a Food Regulation Policy Options Paper for the regulation of caffeine in Australia. That report also acknowledged the role of an increase in coffee consumption in concerns about caffeine consumption.

Caffeine levels in cola-type beverages and energy drinks are limited by regulations in the Food Code and therefore have presumably remained reasonably constant since the introduction of the Ministerial Council Policy Guideline in 2003, according to the Government report.

“However, newer products introduced to the market since 2003, such as energy shots, have generally contained more caffeine by volume than many other caffeine containing products,” the report said.

According to the Government report, energy shots contained between 133mg and 200mg per 100mL.

Australians not aware of relative caffeine content of different products

According to the Australian Beverages Council, its survey showed that just 4 per cent of Australians could correctly indicate that coffee from a café contains the highest amount of caffeine. More than a third (36 per cent) incorrectly said that energy drinks were the most highly caffeinated.

The Australian Beverages Council survey found the following perceptions of which products contained the highest level of caffeine:

  • 36 per cent said energy drinks (contains 80mg)
  • 25 per cent said extra-caffeinated cola drinks (contains 69mg)
  • 16 per cent said espresso coffee (contains 107mg)
  • 4 per cent said cola drinks (contains 49 mg)
  • 4 per cent said coffee from a café (contains 107-282mg)

“This result is just another reminder that coffee, which contributes the most to caffeine intake and has the highest concentration of caffeine, is also the product that Australians know the least about when it comes to judging caffeine content,” Mr Parker said.

Coffee and tea consumption to blame for caffeine concerns, says Australian Beverages Council