What's New -- CSPI Press
For Release July 31, 1997
For more information:
Label Caffeine Content of Foods, Scientists Tell FDA
Health Activists Say Caffeine Causes More Than a 'Buzz': Miscarriages,
Withdrawal Symptoms, Poor Nutrition
Caffeine may cause miscarriages, insomnia, and other problems, according to more than
40 scientific studies outlined in a 70-page petition filed by the Center for Science in
the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI and dozens of health advocates are urging the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) to require the caffeine content of foods to be declared on
"Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply," said
Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, at a press conference in Washington, D.C.,
"and consumers have a right to know how much caffeine various foods contain. Knowing
the caffeine content is important to many people -- especially women who are or might
become pregnant -- who might want to limit or avoid caffeine."
The amount of caffeine varies widely among brands. For instance, a cup of Dannon Coffee
Yogurt has as much caffeine as a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, while a Dannon Light
Cappuccino Yogurt has no caffeine. Sunkist Orange Soda has more caffeine than a Pepsi,
while Minute Maid Orange Soda has none. A cup of Starbuck's Coffee Ice Cream has as much
caffeine as half a cup of instant coffee, while some other brands are virtually caffeine
"Americans should be mindful about their caffeine consumption. Drinking the
caffeine equivalent of several cups of coffee a day can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and
difficulty concentrating. Ceasing the consumption of caffeine often leads to withdrawal
symptoms, such as headache and fatigue," said Roland Griffiths, professor in the
department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine. "Caffeine is a mildly addictive drug, and parents might wish to limit their
children's consumption of it."
Spurred by legal action by CSPI in the 1970s, the FDA issued an advisory in 1981
warning that "Pregnant women should avoid caffeine-containing foods and drugs, if
possible, or consume them only sparingly." The FDA still maintains that advisory as
its official policy.
"Unfortunately, food labels do not provide women with the information they need to
put the FDA's advice into practice," said Patricia Lieberman, CSPI senior science
"Caffeine is present in an increasing variety of coffee and tea beverages, soft
drinks, caffeinated waters, ice creams, and yogurts. It's usually impossible for consumers
to estimate caffeine content based on a product's name or other label information."
Joining CSPI in support of the
petition were 34 scientists and ten health and consumer groups. The supporters include
prominent scientists from Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Duke, University of Michigan,
University of California (Berkeley), and other universities, as well as the Association of
State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors, National Women's Health Network,
Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and Society for Nutrition Education. John Hughes,
of the University of Vermont's department of psychiatry, organized a coalition of
scientists concerned about caffeine to ask the FDA to require caffeine labeling.
Separately, the American Medical Association recently called on the FDA to require
caffeine-content labeling of foods that contain added caffeine.
"Consumers may not realize that some of their health problems could be due to
caffeine," said Lieberman. "For instance, caffeine leads to increased risk of
infertility, miscarriage, and impaired fetal growth. Caffeine also affects bone health,
exacerbating the low calcium intake of women and teenagers and increasing the risk of
Because caffeine is an added ingredient in soft drinks and caffeinated water, caffeine
must be included in ingredient lists. But the labels do not have to disclose how much
caffeine those foods contain. Neither the presence nor amount of caffeine is indicated on
most labels of tea, coffee, and foods made with those beverages, such as ice cream and
yogurt. Caffeine levels can vary widely:
- Ben & Jerry's No Fat Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt has 85 mg of caffeine per cup -- the
amount in five ounces of coffee -- while Healthy Choice's Cappuccino Mocha Fudge Low-Fat
Ice Cream has only 8 mg per cup.
- The caffeine content of 12-ounce soft drinks varies from Josta (58 mg), Mountain Dew (55
mg), Surge (51 mg), Coca-Cola (45 mg), Sunkist Orange Soda (40 mg), and Barqs Root Beer
(23 mg), to none in Minute Maid Orange Soda or Mug Root Beer.
- An 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains 135 mg of caffeine, while a cup of instant coffee
contains 95 mg. General Foods International Coffees range from 26 to 102 mg per cup.
"Many children," Lieberman said, "consume large quantities of
empty-calorie soft drinks and other caffeinated beverages in place of fruit juice, which
may help reduce the risk of cancer, or 1% or skim milk, which may help reduce the risk of
osteoporosis. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that teenage boys drink twice as
much soda as milk. Teenage girls drink 50 percent more soda than milk."
"This all comes down to the consumer's right to know," said Lisa Cox, program
and policies director at the National Women's Health Network. "When a food contains
an ingredient linked to health problems, labels should disclose to shoppers the amount of
CSPI's petition also asks the FDA to study the effects of caffeine on human health to
determine whether it should require warning labels or other measures to protect the
Caffeine Content of
Foods and Drugs Chart
CSPI Petition to FDA (Acrobat)
CSPI, a nonprofit health-advocacy organization, was founded in 1971. CSPI is
supported largely by the one million subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. The
organization is well-known for obtaining nutrition labeling on all packaged foods and for
its nutritional studies of restaurant foods.