EFSA opens caffeine finding to further scrutiny

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th January 2015
EFSA opens caffeine finding to further scrutiny
EFSA opens caffeine finding to further scrutiny

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched an open consultation on the draft scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine that was presented recently to EFSA.

The provisional findings of the Draft Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine from all sources is considered controversial by consumer and public health groups.

Those findings included the opinion that single doses of caffeine up to 200mg and daily intakes of up to 400mg do not raise safety concerns for adults in Europe. EFSA is now seeking comments and feedback on the draft document through a public consultation which is open until 15 March 2015.

Key provisional conclusions in the Draft Scientific Opinion

The following were the key provisional conclusions include, some of which aroused controversy:

  • Single doses of caffeine up to 200mg do not raise safety concerns for adults (18-65 years) also when consumed less than two hours before intense exercise.
  • It is unlikely that caffeine interacts adversely with other constituents of “energy drinks” – such as taurine and D-glucurono-γ-lactone – or alcohol.
  • For pregnant women, caffeine intakes of up to 200mg a day do not raise safety concerns for the foetus.
  • For children (3-10 years) and adolescents (10-18 years), daily intakes of 3mg per kg of body weight are considered safe.
  • Single doses of 100mg may increase sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and shorten sleeping time in some adults.

Concerns about caffeine consumption

Australian Food News reported in February 2013 that the European Commission (EC) had asked EFSA to assess the safety of caffeine.

The Draft Scientific Opinion addresses concerns raised by national and international bodies in relation to caffeine consumption in the following circumstances and age groups:

  • caffeine consumption during pregnancy, lactation and adverse health effects in the fetus,
  • acute and long-term effects of caffeine consumption on the central nervous system (e.g. sleep, anxiety, behavioural changes) in adults, adolescents, and children
  • long-term adverse effects of caffeine consumption on the cardiovascular system in adults
  • acute effects of caffeine consumption in “energy drinks” and risk of adverse health effects in adolescents and adults involving the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, particularly when consumed within short periods of time, at high doses, and in combination with alcohol and/or physical exercise
  • acute effects of caffeine in combination with synephrine on the cardiovascular system.

EFSA is planning a stakeholders meeting to be held the first week of March 2015 to explain and discuss this draft opinion on the safety of caffeine with interested parties.

The public consultation is open until 15 March 2015 and written comments can be provided either before or after discussion of the draft opinion at the stakeholders meeting.

EFSA will assess all comments from interested parties which are submitted in line with the criteria above. The comments will be further considered by the relevant EFSA Panel and taken into consideration if found to be relevant.

All comments submitted will be published. Comments submitted by individuals in a personal capacity will be presented anonymously. Comments submitted formally on behalf of an organisation will appear with the name of the organisation.

Australian perspective

The EFSA assessment is interesting in light of recent Australian developments.

Australian Food News reported in June 2014 that Australia’s health and food regulation ministers had endorsed the revised Policy Guideline on the Regulatory Management of Caffeine in the Food Supply, after consultation with industry, public health and consumer groups.

In 2003, Food Ministers issued the Ministerial Council Policy Guideline on the Addition of Caffeine to Foods. Since 2003, the number of products containing caffeine on the market has increased. Public concerns have been raised that this may be associated with increased dietary exposure, particularly amongst vulnerable populations. In May 2011, the Forum agreed that it was time to review the 2003 Ministerial Council Policy Guideline.

Since June 2014, the agreed revised Policy Guideline provides a framework for the regulatory management of caffeine in the food supply and will supersede the 2003 Ministerial Council Policy Guideline. The Forum provided the Policy Guideline to Food Standards Australia New Zealand for guidance in the development or review of food standards.

In a separate development in December 2012, Australian Food News reported that Australia’s leading consumer group CHOICE ran its own test on caffeinated drinks. CHOICE found that a long black coffee contained more caffeine than an energy drink.